Church is not Church

goingtochurchOnce again, a facebook posting inspired my faith based article for the week.  This one has to do with a picture which states, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.”  Numerous posts (some in total CAPS) preceded and followed the picture.

First, my blood pressure rises just a bit when I see pictures and posts like this.  If someone honestly believes that going to a weekly church event will, alone, qualify them for entrance into heaven, their strong delusions will not be dispelled by a simple internet posting. I have yet to see a posting like this ever receive even one response of sudden realization that the point made has changed their life.

BibleInstead, you often see a number of “Amen” posts from others who agree with the point.  Their agreement, of course, does not validate the truthfulness of the claim made.  Regardless, this mass gathering of people on the point only serves to segregate those people with a dissenting opinion.  Considering Jesus supped with the sinners to share the truth with them, I generally consider such segregations a bad choice.

A number of the posts attached to the picture stress the importance of having a ‘church’ where the pastor preaches sound doctrine, talk about hell, hold people to a standard of holiness, etc.  Interestingly enough, you will not find Bible passages stating the same thing, e.g. “Find a church where the pastor teaches about hell, holiness, and great doctrine.”  You will, of course, find warning from Jesus himself about having faith in God for salvation, living a holy life and even warning of hell.  However, nowhere does he admonish his servants to find a church where the pastor preaches on such topics regularly.  Why?

First, let us keep in mind that church looked a lot different in Biblical times.  Of course, they did not have pews with air conditioning and worship session.  However, the differences were much larger than that.  To them, one did not go to church, one was the church… or a part of it.  Church, in the Bible, means ‘the body of Christ’ or ‘the local body of Christ.’  It does not imply ‘a weekly gathering of set members with common beliefs.  And, contrary to many ‘outside the box’ thinkers, the churches of those times rarely reflected Jesus well.  The New Testament is filled with warning about the challenges of sin found in these local bodies.

CherrypickerAlong those lines, I wrote about, on a previous post, how the New Testament was clearly never designed to act as a manual for ‘how to run a church.’  Those who try to use it as such end up ‘cherry picking’ just those verses which support their viewpoint on how church gatherings should organize and run.  Hence, we have countless denominations standing firm that their way follows God’s Word closer than the others.

Jesus, himself, seems much more focus on individual lives, and their standing with God, than he did on process in ‘running a church.’  He knew that the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart.  If people truly loved Him first, other chips would naturally fall into place within the context of culture of that follower.  Such a flexible, organic design to leadership could not be scripted step by step.

Think of it like parenting a child.  While you have some idea of the temptations and challenges they will face when they grow up, you cannot predict everything.  So, you teach them basic morals, to love God, and act selflessly… knowing that these underlying truths will serve them regardless of whether they end up serving in the army, working as a CEO for Apple, or preaching in Africa as a missionary.  Jesus knew that ‘one size church’ would not fit all, so He taught that we must place God first, and serve others humbly before Him.  By doing so, the other necessary details presented by our culture will work themselves out.

Yet, I cannot help but think that we will, as a group, continue to try and fit God in a box, attempting to figure out exactly ‘how church should be run.”  I feel that is the true travesty.  As long as we focus on methods instead of the giver of Life, we will always miss the mark.<>

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