There are a lot of different ideas about what church is or is not. What components should be a part of a church service? Are drums appropriate? What color should the carpet be? Contemporary worship or hymns? Should people smile while they are up on the stage? (yep, that has actually been a debate in a church I have been a part of.) Over the years the issues have changed, but there continue to be things that we disagree about and often divide us. We have a hard time agreeing on how church should be DONE.
Coronavirus has changed the landscape. Church as we know it has been cancelled. Churches have been instructed that even gathering the tech people and/or musicians to do a livestream is too much risk. We have been instructed not to meet, even in small groups. Now at this point we expect life to generally go back to normal once the health crisis has passed, but it makes me think. What if this was the new normal? Would church cease to exist? Does our faith have enough depth to survive the demise of church as an institution? How would we as Christians have to change in order for the Body of Christ to continue to thrive?
Part of the problem is that many of us have defined church and Christianity as something we DO as opposed to something we ARE. For many, church is about the institution, the ceremony, the routine. When we look at the book of Acts, things were very different. There was no institutional church. No formal service. People were drawn together because their lives were radically changed when they experienced the grace of God. They came together to eat, to learn from each other, and to support each other. They worked tirelessly (and often at great personal expense) in the community to alleviate suffering and to share what they had experienced with others. As a result of these gatherings, the world would never be the same. Reaching out to others wasn’t something they did because they were supposed to. It was simply the result of the impact that the Grace of God had on their lives. Their lives were so much better, they couldn’t wait to share it with others. Their IDENTITY as Christians drove their actions.
I feel like so often we let what we DO define who we are instead of WHO WE ARE define what we do. We try to DO Christian things (church, sing, even prayer) because we think by doing them we are more spiritual. And I suppose there is some truth in that. But often times our lack of love, generosity, or drive to help the oppressed indicate the limited depth of our spiritual connection. We begin to identify with the institution instead of the reason for the institution. Our priorities begin to look less and less like the ones Jesus seemed to identify with when I read the Gospels. We develop a list of things to check off so we can “go to heaven.” However, a list never inspired anyone with a burning desire to change the world around them.
Many young adults report that church doesn’t do much for them. Church leaders try to develop new programs, change their worship style, buy bean bags and serve doughnuts to entice younger generations to engage. Don't get me wrong. All of those can be useful, especially the doughnuts. Its just that, if this is all we do, we're still going to struggle to make in impact. However, maybe instead of focusing on the institution all of us (young and old) need to focus on experiencing the grace of God in our hearts like those first church members did. What if we all focused on Jesus and the sacrifice He made for us and let the grace He has given drive what we DO? Institutions can come and go, but a movement of people who have truly been changed WILL CHANGE THE WORLD.
Check out the questions below. We would love to hear your thoughts on church and being a follower of Christ. Engage here or on our social media.
Does your Christianity fill you with hope and Joy? Do you have a desire for other people to experience that hope and joy? Does church (the institution) build you up, strengthen you spiritually, and inspire you to make a difference in your community during the week? Why or why not?
Check out Acts 2. How is this similar to your church experience? How is it different? What do you think keeps us from having a similar experience to those early Christians?
Read 2 Corinthians 5:11-21. What does it mean to be a “new creation”? Do you feel like you are one? Do you feel like other people in the church have gone through this process? What do you think keeps us from experiencing this life-changing type of experience in our own hearts?