Friday, May 19, 2006

Is Church Part of the Problem?

Having been an English teacher, I'm very concientious about words. When I read the Bible, I'm careful to look at the words that someone uses. When I listen to politicians or entertainers or my wife, I listen to the words that they use and even more often, the words that they don't use. It's called diction.

Some of you may have noticed an attempt on my part over the last few weeks, when I write about church that I've started to not use the word "church" when talking about individual congregations. This is a conscious effort on my part. I've become more and more convinced that the church is a much wider body of believers than I've previously thought about. I've considered church to be those people that I meet with on Sundays and Wednesdays, but now I've started to try and use the word "congregation" when talking about the individual congregations. Church is the body of Christ worldwide, but we also enact being part of the church through the times of community that we have within the individual congregations. It might be a minor point, but words have power (even if meaning can be debated or obscured) and I think the word "church" is a powerful one.

So, here are the questions that I'd like to hear from people on today: In what ways does the way that church is currently practiced in your individual congregations (because I believe that church is defined as a communal experience [you can worship God individually, but that's private devotion, not church]) help or hinder you in becoming a better follower of Jesus? Is the way church is practiced in your congregation more hindering than helpful or more helpful than hindering? Possibly an even more important question is whether the point of communal worship and teaching is to become a better follower of Christ. Is it?

I realize that I'm asking a bunch of questions here, but I think that how we practice church in our congregations is critical to our formation into the image of Christ and I'm starting to wonder if how we do that is a help or a hindrance in that pursuit. Is sitting in a large room staring at the back of someone's head conducive to that?

Thanks for helping me work through this.


DJG said...

I think currently I would say that the local congregation hinders my becoming more like Jesus.

I "jump" on your phrase about being in a large room staring at the back of someone's head, because this is one of my major pet peeves. Yet I have not had any success in getting people to see this as I do. "communion" has become more "introspection" than a shared experience.

I often leave the local congregation wondering why we leave Jesus out of our vocabulary and our "sorship"

TCS said...

Our words always give away the way we think. They are important. I think church can be used in the sense on the church that meets at so and so's house. But over all many hear it as THE Church. And to hear it stings. To use congregation is probably a much clearer communication.

So you are asking what ways our commual experience helps or hinders being a better follower of Jesus. Sundays where we attend often are void of Jesus. Many times lessons are not about Jesus. Communion I guess always mentions him and that is a help. On our "Thursday night group" We consider it church and a community. We try to always focus on Jesus, we nomally begin by inviting Jesus to be with us and to bring out whatever he wants to bring. In part our time of worship is more intense and that experience of catching a glimpse of who God is and who I am in comparison leaves me wanting to be more like him.

As to the architecture of the room. That crusiform traditon of row after row has nothing to do with anything other than shoehorning a function into a preconceived space. Of course I have lots of opinions on that.

scott said...

This is going to sound absolutely horrible but "church" typically doesn't help me become more like Jesus at all. It's a performance/work day. I'm more intuned to helping others on this day. My growth occurs during the week. I don't know how to fix that. I am the preacher after all.

DJG said...

of course sorship is another way to spell "worship"....I am a dork!

Suzie said...

One time I heard a lady say that she hopes when her children grow up that they can't even fathom trying to live their lives without the support of the church. I want that for my kids, too, where church is a support system, but not the basis for their faith. I think that is the key - the relationships you develop and the intimacy of sharing your journey of faith. Sometimes the fellowship that goes on before and after the services can be as valuable or more valuable than what happens during the "worship service".

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