My wife Liz and I went for a long walk yesterday. As always, we began to talk about God and the important things of life. In our conversation, we agreed that we were both tired of church. We’re tired of church…not in the sense of detaching from the church, but rather in the sense of having understood the points of our dissatisfaction with church-life, and our fervent desire to reform it.
Churches in the West are very different from what you would find in the East, where the Church is being persecuted. In the East (and among many Eastern Christians in the West), there is a pervading sense of belonging to a people. There is a sharing in aspirations, joys and pains. There are traditions and moral standards that aid unity. There is a sense of brotherhood and of a common purpose that transcends wordly clubs and entertainments.
The clergy are appreciated and venerated for their devotion to Christ and spiritual discipline. Communal worship is a shared, mystical experience based on the belief that Christ is transcendently present. In fact, the congregation is mystically transported through the Liturgy into the heavenly court itself, joining in the worship of Angels and Archangels.
The driving force in many Western churches, whether liturgical or “free,” is consumerism.
Most Westerners will look for a church based on palatable services. For instance, people with children usually want to be part of a church with children activities and good childcare. Others seek churches with a great praise band or lofty classical music. Some want a church that offers social opportunities besides a Bible study class. But regardless of what people seek in a church, its mostly based on a consumer mindset rather than Biblical discipleship.
The Western concept of “church” is the notion that it is a place where one goes to once a week in order to be spiritually entertained for an hour or so, and then disconnect for the rest of the week in order to live our lives on our own.
Church is not a “place” one goes to. Church is a state of being.
The word “church” in New Testament Greek is ecclesia, which means “the gathering of the called.” In other words, we Christians have been called out from the world through the Cross, in order to be God’s own community. Rather than being a “place” one goes to, the Church is a state of being in which believers are part of a unit that transcends this plane of existence.
Psalm 133:1 (KJV) “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”
It is true that the Church is a community that gathers to be “served” with Word and Sacrament, but also, it’s purpose is to bask in a transcendent feeling of brotherhood that experiences the divine through love and celebration. In other words, the congregation itself should be like a sacrament through which we firsthand experience the mystical presence of Christ through the Word that was implanted in each believer through Holy Baptism.
When we assemble in the Name of Christ, we should let go of all earthly concerns and rejoice with each other in our communing with God and each other. We should leave every service with the feeling that we have seen God in the face of our brothers and sisters. In fact, one should leave the service knowing that we have just returned from heaven.
We’re tired of church…of the stale and superficial way that the West “does” church. We want to live experiencing the reality that we’re part of the body of Christ and that we encounter God every time we gather with our brothers and sisters. No amount of consumer-oriented ministries will ever be able to replace what one feels like when blissfully experiencing God through worship in unity with brothers and sisters in Christ.
So what is the solution? Easy… simply live it. If you’re tired of doing church, then live church the way you envision and see it in Scripture. Don’t waste time arguing with people who are afraid of change and who are satisfied with the same stale, communal experience. If you have someone else (like I do) who loves to bask in the presence of God, then begin to worship God with that person. You can even start a small group in church who’s only interest is to gather and worship the Name of Jesus and experience Christ through brotherly love.
Like a spark of fire in the midst of dry grass, soon the fire of the Holy Spirit in your heart will set ablaze those around you who are thirsty for living and experiencing what it means to be the Church. And don’t forget to invite your brother-Pastor…