That Funny thing called “Local Church.”

You know me – “Mr. I don’t call Myself a Christian” guy.  Several times a month someone will ask me this question; “So Carl, do you guy to a church in Denver?” Interesting they don’t ask me what they probably ask most other regular Christians. Which is “WHERE do you go to church?”  Just assuming they would go to a church…. Well not with me. They want to know IF I go somewhere.  (And they probably don’t ask Chris this question either – just me).   Hmmm?

So…you ask. What’s the answer?

We go.  Faithfully (when I’m in town – Chris more often).  A great church just down the road called Mountain View Community Church.  Good people there. Good and godly people leading as well.

Here’s the deal when it comes to “going to church.”  I think most of what we think about church is confused, and sometimes downright wrong.  The very question “Where do you go to church” shows how confused we are. How many times have we heard someone say “The church is not a place, but a people” and we still don’t get that right. We all know it. Believe it. But we forget.  (Sort of like “following Jesus” – we forget).

Of the 1000 or so people that show up at “our church” every Saturday night and Sunday morning (four identical weekend services), the vast majority are the best folks in the world. Some know Jesus. Some don’t. Some aren’t sure.  But they’re mostly really good people.  80% just show up and get served. 20% do something.  Pretty normal stats, I’d say.

So why do we go? Why does Chris help lead with the women? Why do I speak there when I can and meet with folks “from church?”  Why do we care to be involved when, in so many ways, our church perpetuates the notion that you “go to a church on Sundays” and that it’s a spectators sport. Here’s why:

They’re people. God likes people. Who cares if they’re this way or that. Or if the worship is a 9 or a 1 on the scale of 1-10. Or if the preaching is wonderful or mediocre.  They’re people.  And God commands us to love people. Where else can we find 1000 of them to love so easily?
We do learn. I’d say every time we walk away with a new thought or a new way to live.  That’s a good thing!
We might be able to slap someone on the back and say “How’s life?”  And actually care. Maybe even pray with them.  That’s pretty cool, eh?

There are other reasons, of course. But those three are good enough for us to “go.”  We should be the church. We should understand what that means.  Think deeply about biblical community. And in the meantime – in case you can’t find those folks – you “go to church.”  Settle in. Make the most of it. Don’t be grumpy. Don’t judge. Enjoy. Contribute.  If you don’t like it – do something about it. Don’t boycott.  Don’t walk away.  Be part of the solution!

Comments

  1. emhumphries says:

    Hey Carl,

    Sounds like you switched audiences midstream. There is (as you well know) many views upon church and church going. And, as you have so well pointed out, many people who know of your “stance” on Western Christianity in Cultural Context often don’t know how to approach you in question (as though trying to preemptively phrase the dialogue in a way that still gets them the answer they were looking for), when they’re really just wanting to know, “do you participate in this cultural expectation of mine of going to a church?” At least that’s what I’m hearing. I find myself in a similar boat often even though I participate with 3-4 fellowships with my wife each month.

    But then at the end you seem to be talking to a different set of… well… believers, followers, and the such, who are waking up to a new cultural reality where the church has not met the expectations of the individual, but rather almost ostracizes the person who doesn’t “fit”. That is my generation. I am as well one who groans for a reality in “follower fellowship” that instead at “church”, I often find more as a reality when I sit with people who have simply come to terms with who they are as individuals and secure at the very least in how they want to be identified, (this is not to say they are people without insecurities, as sometimes it is quite the opposite).

    So I find it interesting how you jumped from one side of the bridge to the other there, though you may have had that one “type” in mind the whole time. And I think the healthiest thing is for the Church right now, especially in the West, is to ask the Holy Spirit to engage and alter our expectation on a grand scale. Perhaps we are too content with the state of our day to day, week to week, Christian lives. I am of course, referring primarily to the monotonous form and function. We’re good at compartmentalizing areas of service, worship, tradition, and celebration, but there is far more available to us in the Spirit of God at work in the world. I think the hardest part for followers (or just Christians) to get when encountering some of the ideas you bring to the table is that its seen as an option… an individuals point of view that may or may not be adopted depending upon how it relates to the identity and expectations of the individual who encounters it…

    I am finding that whereas, it is a beautiful thing how all the members of the body work together in perfect unison, this attachment to individuality, and worship thereof, may very well be the cancer that seeps its way into Church in the West and secures its demise. My hope is not lost, nor do I believe Jesus will sit idly by. The heart of the Father is advancing steadily and powerfully in the world now more than it ever has before. My hope rests Jesus. I want to help the Church as a part of it. I want us to have our lens changed so we can see things the way Jesus sees them. That is what you’re helping to do, and I thank you for it.

  2. mikesoderstrom says:

    Gah. I really struggle with this one. The day you posted this my wife and I were actually talking about quitting. The only reason we go is for the people and to try and make a positive impact, but we always feel so grumpy with “going to church.” We feel much more comfortable with a “home church” style but it’s been tough finding others who feel the same way.

    Even though a part of me didn’t like reading it, thanks for writing about it and the encouragement. : )
    And I liked EMHUMPHRIES thoughts as well. Good stuff.

  3. Speakless says:

    I love the way my pastor puts it: “There are a lot of fine churches in this town, if you don’t like it here, try one of the others. Really, this isn’t the only place in town where Jesus shows up on a Sunday morning”. Even Jesus didn’t try to “please” anyone; He just spoke the truth and let people decide for themselves.

    For me, I spent a lot of time trying to convince various churches where they were going wrong, but in the end I realized that I’M the church and I’M usually the one who needs correction. I support a local church for all the reasons Carl mentions, and because I am confident I need the support of other followers of Jesus; whether that’s in a building, coffee house, or park down the street. As my pastor has said; I get to choose.