I shared lunch with some friends today- I meet with three other blokes to pray every couple of weeks. It is a really good mix of folks as each of us are very different, but share a desire for honesty, friendship and to create a safe space to share faith and life.
Today we spoke about church.
It is a familiar theme. I am the only one of the group who is no longer attending a regular Sunday morning service in a church building. All of my friends are still hanging on in there- just.
It is not that any of us do not appreciate the value of meeting and worshipping communally- it is just that the baggage that comes with this seems to have a high price- and also that the activities through which communal worship is celebrated can just be so suffocatingly irrelevant- for us, let alone for our kids or our friends and neighbours.
The question of what might be possible as an alternative has exercised much discussion, including on this blog.
In particular, today we asked a local version of this question…
A couple of days ago, in response to a comment on this piece by Aileen, I wrote this-
I wonder if we were ‘over sold’ some of the ideas about what it means to be a Christian. We have been told repeatedly that people are of two sorts-
Saved and unsaved
Good and ‘of the world’(or even ‘evil)
Transformed and untransformed
Enlightened and deceived by the devil
We have the Holy Spirit who will sort us out- they don’t.
This dualism allows us to then suggest that Christians are elevated above all other people- more holy, more loving, living better lives. And then when we discover (as we inevitably do) that Christians are often just as screwed up and damaged /damaging as the next person, we are exposed to a great disappointment- and what the Americans would call a ‘disconnect’ between our rhetoric and reality.
I have come to believe that the Kingdom of God at loose on the earth is NOT the same thing as ‘the church’. Rather “God plays in ten thousand places, from the father to the features of mens faces, lovely in limbs and hands not his”
The question is, if this is true, what the POINT of the church is? If Christians are untransformed by encountering Jesus- what is the point?
I think I would reply that we are not untransformed- the very fact that you and I are asking these questions is proof of that. Rather what we come to is an awareness that we can reach higher, and deeper- and expect an encounter with the divine as we do this that is so much more than a one directional intellectual exchange of religious ideas/doctrine. But also that we are called to walk humbly- and to hold ourselves in awareness of our sinful state- not other peoples sinful state, but our own.
Perhaps then the purpose of the church is to be a sprinkling of salt, bringing out flavours of the world, and a source of light that illuminates good and beautiful things. This kind of church I can belong to!
I have no desire to start a new church though- in the sense of a new institution, or a new exclusive gathering of people who try to sell their ‘product’ and their version of truth to everyone on the outside.
But what began to emerge today in our discussion was the possibility of a more regular celebration event, in partnership with others where possible.
In many ways this might compliment some of the more intimate small group church things that I love.
Who knows what might emerge, but I have a feeling that it might be time to make some noise again…