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Monday, November 28, 2016

"Where Do You Go To Church?"

"Where do you go to church?"


It is a question I have asked and one I have been asked over and over.  It used to be a simple question.  I was naïve.  It is more difficult for me to answer these days and it has also clarified what I really am asking someone.


Over the last 15 years, I have been studying THE church.  I have researched scripture.  I have read the documents of our faith fathers.  I have read multiple versions of church history.  I have explored research and studies regarding the state of the institutional church.  I have been active in THE church and the institutional church from one on one relationships to small groups to local fellowships to denominational leadership groups.  I have spoken and written on the subject.  Mostly I have prayed for God to help me understand THE church from His perspective.  I say all that to say this...  We shouldn't use words we don't understand and if we understand them, we should make sure our understanding is shared by those we talk with.


THE Church belongs to God.  In scripture it is referred to as Jesus' body and his Bride.  It is applied to groups of disciples of Jesus Christ from house churches to entire countries to all disciples of Jesus Christ.  In our popular culture lexicon, the word "church" has gotten hi-jacked and its meaning diluted.  We use it to refer to buildings, to corporations, to processes ("let's do church"), to doctrinal factions, all in addition to (and too often in preference to) its scriptural and God intended meaning.  So when someone asks me "Where do you go to church?" I cannot answer it simply.


I recently asked my Christian and (Institutional) church going friends what they meant when they asked this question.  I also asked them how they would ask it if the person they were speaking to didn't understand the meaning of the word "church".  The answers were expected and enlightening.  They referred to collections of people, affiliations with faith systems, a place, activities (i.e. "worshipping God").  In most responses, this one question became multiple questions and even confessions of needing to engage in a protracted conversation. 


Our intimacy with Jesus, either in the form of His Body or His Bride, is profound and complex.  It seems to me that being so casual with something so profound is at best naïve and at worst disrespectful if not willfully ignorant.  Be clear with our intentions.  The Adversary has made a career out of distorting God's Words.


Where am I intimate with Jesus?  Everywhere and as often as I can be.

Where am I actioned by Jesus, as a part of His Body?  Wherever and whenever He chooses.

With whom do I share this relationship?  Every disciple of Jesus Christ.

When and how do I grow in knowledge and intimacy with Jesus?  In quiet times almost every morning.  In Bible reading and study.  In sharing what I read, learn, and experience with other Disciples of Jesus Christ (wherever and whenever I encounter them).

How do I remain accountable for my relationship with Jesus?  Ultimately, I have to answer to God.  Practically, through the relationships I maintain with Brothers and Sister in Christ.


These are the topics, the real questions, hidden in the simple phrase: "Where do you go to church?".  THE Church isn't a destination or a process.  THE Church gets its context in the person of Jesus Christ.  Consequently it can take form in coffee shops, at work, in homes, at dinner, on walks, anywhere and everywhere two or more are gathered in His name.


Please understand this... THE Church is community.  You cannot be alone and be part of THE Church.


Having said that, community isn't exclusive to the institutional forms that too often mask the topics and real questions reflected above. 


To my Brothers and Sisters who are part of THE Church and happy in your relationships through some corporation... ROCK ON!  To my Brothers and Sisters who seek something different,  seek and you will find... knock and doors will be opened... ask and you will receive.  God's grace doesn't take attendance.  Please understand your responsibility.  You must materially support those who are your teachers.  You must give of what God has given you... to the poor and needy.  You must do good for all, but especially for those of the Household of Faith.  Realize, our faith muscles have atrophied because the Institution provided a paid resource who did these things for us... for self-preservation purposes and sometimes for spiritual purposes.  You will work harder, better, than you ever did in the institution but it will be more of a life style than a task... a gift of service more than an obligation.


To those convinced I am lost, out of fellowship, and needing to be rescued by a local corporation who is accountable to the State which grants it permission to pursue your faith... Two questions:  What happens when that State no longer blesses your corporation with permission or more likely requires that your corporation revise its message and methods?  (Read up on the Lutheran Church in Germany during Hitler's leadership.)  Second, really?  Can you not see beyond the traditions of your fathers?  Have you lost sight of the reality and bigness of THE Church?  Is God only limited to working in and through our corporations?  Doesn't this smack of being a pattern of this world?


It is time to awaken, you Disciples of Jesus Christ.  It is time to trim your faith lamps, to give up all you have for the "pearl of great worth", to abandon "law" for "life".

7:37 am est 

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