Reflections on how Christians help each other to grow and mature in loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love their neighbor as themselves.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Is the Church a Place You "Go To"?

     We need to think more carefully about the way we talk about our relationship with the church. Commonly heard phrases such as “going to church”, “attending church”, “when church is over” are problematic. They reveal a detachment from the church. The church is a place we go, like a school or a shop. It is a place we go to have our needs met. The church is just another commodity to be used and consumed. It is separate and not part of the person.
     When we understand church as something to “go to” or “attend” we keep it at a distance. It is not part of me, not am I every really part of church. This church is not the “body of Christ” Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 12. It is not the “household of God” described in Ephesians 2:19-22.
     Such a church is a collection of individuals rather than a community centered in the crucified and risen Christ. Feelings about Jesus and one another are more important than obedience Jesus and “watching over one another in love” doing all in our power to increase faith, confirm hope and perfect one another in love.
     A church that I “go to” or “attend” is more interested in making me a good, paying member than it is in making me into a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. Such churches welcome people into relationship with themselves. They do not know how to introduce people to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. The problem is that they often mistake inviting others to church with inviting them into relationship with Jesus. New member recruitment is confused with evangelism.
     If such churches ever want to become true outposts of the body of Christ they will need to begin by embracing and living the sacraments. They must begin to take seriously the Baptismal Covenant and take steps to equip their members to grow into and keep their baptismal promises. To begin, the church will need to re-examine and take steps to keep the baptismal promises it makes to God and to the baptized.
     Another important step to take is to shift the focus of Sunday worship from making people feel good about themselves to preparing them to come to the Lord’s table. Every Sunday should be Communion Sunday. How can the church expect its people to live sacramental lives if it starves itself from week to week?
     I am convinced that congregations that take the Baptismal Covenant seriously and celebrate the Lord’s Supper every week, will move from being simply another place to go on Sunday morning to Christ-centered community of grace, hope, and love.

Steve Manskar

3 Comments:

Blogger St.Phransus said...

i agree with you steve, i wish more of our faith communities had a sacramental understanding of who they are. i'll be interested to hear how things go at the first of the year with your classes on the sacraments at blakemore. keep me posted and informed. i might like to see it come to hermitage, as well.

shalom,
jonathon

8:27 AM

 
Blogger Randy said...

Steve,

I also agree with you on the importance of a sacramental spirituality. I am sure that you would also agree that such a spirituality is vital only insofar as it truly is sacramental: that is, only if it truly mediates the grace of God through visible means. Too often, the Lord's Supper is ritualistic only and not really sacramental. The challenge of the church, and especially of pastors, is to uphold Holy Communion as an effectual sacrament and guarding against its use as mere ritual. Would you care to comment on the difference between sacrament and ritual?

Grace and peace,
Randy Graves

12:21 PM

 
Blogger Deacon Harry said...

Well said. I agree totally with your post. We preach that Church is not someplace you go. It is an acceptance of Christ as a major part of your life on a constant, never ending basis. Yet in my Church we are always faced with an ongoing struggle as the Board of Directors who handle the business end of the church and the staff and lay leadership who lead the spiritual life, clash over the length of the service. It seems that some people are in a hurry to get to lunch rather than linger longer in praise wnd worship.
We always pray over each person as we serve communion, and there have been suggestions lately that we shorten the prayers in order to speed up communion. I stated repeatedly that I refuse to hurry. For many people the prayer at communion is the only time they recieve individual prayers and I can't hurry when someone asks me to pray for a sick child or a job situation. We have a little side chapel set up where we have deacons and clergy waiting after each service for individual prayer. The ideal of course is to teach them to pray more in their own life also and we are working on it. I pray so much as I go through my daily life that I am often unaware of starting and stopping.( If I ever truly stop.)
I guess I need to stop now, though this is getting to be long enough to be a posting in my own blog.
Yours in Christ, Deacon Harry

9:31 AM

 

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