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.