Sunday, February 25, 2007

Where is the Church?


I thought I would finally start my series on the church.

But first I want to explain a couple of things. (You can skip the next two paragraphs, if you want and go straight to the post)

First about blogging in general. I have only been at this for about a year and a half or so. I have seen bloggers come and go. I've seen people become very successful and some not so much. I started out blogging as sort of a notepad for writing my thesis in graduate school. But it soon turned into a place to write about whatever. I enjoyed it and I was surprised when I actually begin to make blogger friends. I started thinking about how to increase readership and how to write for my audience. So, blogging became a way to make a name for myself. I quickly learned that blogging for that reason was very self serving for me. I put it down for awhile. Then, with my new job, I really had to decide in what direction my blog was needing to go. After moving here, I really never thought how I could use this blog. So, I just sort of floated along hoping to not loose all the readers.

Then, after language school, I had time to ponder in what new direction I wanted to take the blog. I have decided to TRY and focus on ideologies of Christianity. I hope that is broad enough to allow me freedom to blog, yet narrow enough to bring some focus. So, whatever things I am trying to get work through, one might find it here
.

Which leads me to the real content of this post.

I have been thinking for some time (maybe 2 to 3 years) the ways "church" is being redesigned. I first got interested in this when I read some stuff by Leonard Sweet (Aqua Church and SoulTsunami). I had never heard this before, and it seemed refreshing. I even ran into a couple of people more versed on "this," who helped me see some of the importance. During seminary, you hear ad naseum about postmodernism and emerging church (these terms may need defining, but that may have to wait). Then, I started having some questions about the movement, and at the same time seeing major problems in the "traditional" movement. I put it on a back burner until just before Thanksgiving of last year, when I had to read Jake Colson's awful book. (So You Don't Want To Go To Church Anymore). That was the straw that broke the camel's back. I decided I had to figure this out. I just want to add that this book is NOT what made me bring a back burner idea to the front. It really was the last straw. I do not recommend this book because it is so poorly written. But if you want to read it, go for it, for I will be using it as a guide as I critique and ask questions concerning this "new way of thinking about church." (BTW I will probably be using a ton of Christan-ese in these posts, so if you are reading this and are not Christian, you might be left out. However, you are still welcome here and still welcome to comment and ask questions.)

Now, I have not figured it out. Not even really understood it that well. But to comfort most of you, I am not going through an ecclesiastical crisis. I still believe as mostly as I always have with some tweaking here and there. However, depending on what side of fence you will be falling, you will agree and disagree with me throughout the entire series. So, let's talk and try to figure out this thing called the church.

I am a teacher by trade, and the only way I know to get a discussion started is to ask a question.

Where is the church?

I've had a lot of thoughts about where to begin this series. But today offered one solution. My wife and I had planned to go to what has been labeled a "traditional" church. That is one where people meet and there is a set formula for worship, usually songs of praise, prayer, and preaching, and possible fellowship. (This is an oversimplification. I realize that.) But that church was meeting in another town, so we decided to go the beach. The sun came out for about 15 to 20 minutes, and we got out and was in amazement of God's creation. When it began raining, we got in the car and read some scripture and prayed.

So, did we really have church? Can church happen at the beach? Was this the temple of God today?

16 comments:

Kc said...

Great to see you get started in this. ;-)

I think if we are to find the Church then we have to know who we are looking for. I would say that if we know the Church as the body of Christ and that the body is composed of its members then when we find the members of the body we’ve found the Church, or at least a part of it. So could the Church be found at the beach today? I would say most definitely and many other places as well. I suspect it could even be found in some buildings owned and maintained by religious institutions! ;-)

TJ said...

I have a couple of questions to follow up on yours. First, can you have church as an activity? Secondly, can you go to church as a place of worship? I think not. I also believe church to be a group of people and not a place. Answer to your question: I would say that you guys worshipped at the beach. To me, a church is a community of people. Can you define that as 2 people? I'm not sure you can. I believe that small groups can be considered church (of course this is the pastor of a house church talking), but can you call the two of you a church community?

drlobojo said...

I think a convocation of you two on a beach meeting in Christ's name meets the stated definition of ekklesia as stated in Mathew. Then and there you were a church.

"The Church" however, now that's a culturally loaded term.

I'll be interested in following your discussion.

pecheur said...

First a general comment. In order not to play my whole hand at once, i am holding back here in the beginning.

However, I already have been prompted to think, which I am not always fond of.

pecheur said...

KC,

Of course I would agree, that church took place there. Otherwise, a week went by without having church (whatever that means).

But we did not go to a building where there were other believers. It was on ly two of us. There was no preaching, no singing (well maybe there was a little singing), no prayer request (but there was prayer), no announcements, no preacher, no communion (Lord's Supper), no offering taken, no holy kissing, no pastor, no Sunday School classes. How could we have had church w/o those things?

Again, I think we did, but...

pecheur said...

TJ,

Can you have church as an activity? If the Church is the Body of Christ and it functions, then church is an activity.

Can you go to church as a place of worship? You can, as you can go to a temple, mosque, or whatever. But worship of any god can take place outside the prescribed area. Can a Muslim worship outside his mosque? Yeah. Just as a Christian can worship outside his church. But can one have church w/o worship? and is all worship having church?

Church= a group of people. Then why do we go to church? To group ourselves? Why can't we have church at home from 9:45 to 12 on Sundays?

So worship took place on the beach but not church? How can we separate the two? When two people worship together are they not having church?

Community definition. I would define church as WHERE two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus. Now is communtity and church the same (I may argue they are not later on.)?

What's the magic number where a small group = "church community?" If not 2 or more then 3, 4, 10, 12?

Excellent thoughts, and of course I am playing devil's advocate some here also (I'll let you decide where). haha

pecheur said...

Dr.lobo,

As I said to Kc, I also would consider what happened on the beach as church (ekklesia) as defined by Matthew.

And oh...yes, The Church. That really gets over my head fast.

Look forward to interacting with you on it.
Peace

Kc said...

”But we did not go to a building where there were other believers. It was on ly two of us. There was no preaching, no singing (well maybe there was a little singing), no prayer request (but there was prayer), no announcements, no preacher, no communion (Lord's Supper), no offering taken, no holy kissing, no pastor, no Sunday School classes. How could we have had church w/o those things?”

First let me say that given my present perspective the idea of “having” Church sounds almost incestuous.

As for preaching, I hope that takes place all ways in all places. I sing hymns that only Corry hears every day and sometimes no person hears them. Are they not hymns or is that not praise? I request prayer constantly and receive request constantly. Do we observe the ordinance of communion at every gathering? I’m afraid I’ve been missing out on that during most assemblies. I fail to make offering at every gathering as well. Maybe I just don’t understand tithing. (grin) You can catch me kissing and even “holy hugging” any day. ;-) As for SS class, well I’m always up for a good Bible study!

pecheur said...

Kc,

I think you nailed them all.

Yeah...the terms "having and doing church" are explicitly Christianese. Sounds like a post in the making.

I especially liked the kissing and holy hugging and got a laugh and huge smile out of your private "song service." =) Now that's being honest about one's spiritual life!

Mrs Zeke said...

I think in an interview with Mike Scott from the Waterboys who wrote this song many moons ago the word "she" was meant like when we call a storm "she" or car. Not she as in a women. But I think it might explain the "church" we may all be longing for.

"Bye-bye shadowlands
The term is over
and all the holidays have begun
Now she walks in fresh fields
her tracks are on the land

She is everywhere and no place

When it's dark and evening falls
she moves among men
They would seek to have her as a prize
But she is in the shadows
the ocean and the sand

She is everywhere and no place
Her church not made with hands
Not contained by man

She is dancing high as clouds
Faster than the arrow
as straight as any crows that flies
Accross great seas she travels
up through rising lands

She is everywhere and no place
Her church not made with hands
Not contained by man

Isn't that a pretty sun
setting in a pretty sky?
Will we stay and watch it darken?
Will we stay and watch it darken?

The church not made by hands
Not contained by man
That precious place
Unmade by man"

Be loved

Rick said...

I think the discussion on "having" vs "being" church is one that needs to had. This issue is key.

another question - Did you feel guilt for not going to a church? why?

pecheur said...

Mrs. Zeke,

You are right.

Thanks again. Always good to hear from you.

pecheur said...

Rick,

Welcome. Always glad to hear new voices.

Stick around some and we will for sure have the discussion on "having" versus "being," if there is such a thing as either.

As for Sunday, dude, I went to church!! I had church Sunday like I've not had in a good little while. But if your question is, "did I feel guilty for not going to church in a traditional sence?" Heck no. I've been "doing" church non-taditionally for over well over a year. Sometimes I have to go to church so people won't think I'm dead or something. But guilt, none.
Do Christians try to make me feel guilty for not going to their building? Almost every time I show up at their building for church.

Voila, hope that answers your question

Rick said...

"Sometimes I have to go to church so people won't think I'm dead or something."


A couple of questions - Why? Does it matter that much to you? Should it? What would happen if you just did church on your own all the time?

pecheur said...

Again, I'll answer your questions when I get more info about you. (You must have read Questioning Evangelism, because you sure have a load of them)

Interesting that you asked what would happen if I just "did" church, when you are the one who brought up the wanting to discuss "having" versus "being" church.

I happen to enjoy going to church (most of the time) Why do I think it matters? Christian fellowship maybe, I don't know. What does it matter that you even suggest not going?

And I actually thought you were Rick Warren!! How embarassing to find out differently!

Hang in there old chap. It's all in good fun.

TJ said...

Pech,
Sorry I'm late in my follow-up, BUT...
In my vocabulary, I have eliminated the phrase "going to church." Admittedly, it slips out from time to time, but for the large majority of my conversations, I do not use that phrase. I do not use it precisely because of this discussion. I believe that "church" is a group of believers who live and worship in community. The church is a people who reach the larger area around them, discipling others and starting other churches.

Something to think about... you say, "If the Church is the Body of Christ and it functions, then church is an activity." But this is my point exactly. I don't include the functions of the body in this definition. The word "body" is not a verb. It can act, but it is not an action. Semantics? Maybe, but I really don't think so. I believe there is a large distinction between being a church and going to church. The differences are apparent.

You can see a profound impact on churches in the Western church, and especially in American culture, because of the shifting of this definition. The results of this shift in the big picture: Evangelism is almost nonexistent. Discipleship isn't happening. Multiplication? Non-existent. Churches aren't growing, much less reproducing. Why? Because church has now become a place people feel they need to bring the "heathen, unsaved" people they know so they can hear a sermon and meet Jesus. This is not what Christ intended at all! I feel like that the church is not, and cannot, be what it is called to be without rethinking this and coming back to this. You also ask, "can you not go to a place of worship?" You added there examples like mosques, temples and tabernacles. I would respond to that by saying that we no longer need those places to go. Jesus had a great conversation about this at a famous well in Samaria :P. So bottom line: I believe a church is a people and not a place or a function. I have more on this, but I'll save it for another day.