Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What's the Point?

A friend and I had a conversation weeks ago about the purpose of the church. We talked about what the right way to 'do church' is, and if the mandate to 'be church' can be fulfilled another way than meeting together on Sundays as it's always been done. Here's part of my response to our conversation.

I have been thinking about our conversation weeks ago about the church. It was really good to talk to you about that issue, because it challenged me to search the scriptures and think through the issue for myself. Here are the thoughts that I have been ruminating on.

First, the church is for mutual encouragement and love, as so many verses say. 'Build one another up, encourage one another' etc. I agree that this can be done in an informal setting, such as seeing friends occasionally and spending time together say, over dinner, assuming you are talking about spiritual things. (1 Thess 5:11) However, when Paul writes letters to the churches, the comments and terminology he uses seem to indicate a network of believers who are a 'group' of some sort. He writes to churches, not to friends. He asks that the reader 'greet all the brothers' on his behalf. Sounds more committed than an occasional social gathering.

The second thought is related to church structure and function in the New Testament. The qualifications are presented for elders and deacons, as well as guidelines for church discipline. So, there is to be teaching going on, serving and meeting physical needs, as well as accountability among believers.

Also, we're commanded to remember spiritual truths through the sacraments. Baptism and communion are expected to be happening in the context of believers together.

Lastly, I looked into Hebrews 10:24 and 25, "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." The study notes I looked at indicated that some believers at the time of the writing of Hebrews were not 'coming to church', so to speak, because of persecution and fear. The author of Hebrews doesn't seem to mean that these people are cutting off all contact with other Christians, but that they are neglecting to meet corporately.

Obviously, I am not a bible scholar, and I would love to hear your response and thinking. Anything that causes us to go to God's word is a good thing, right? I do think house churches are wonderful, and the intimacy those groups of Christians must experience is probably hard and stretching and good at the same time. I wonder, too, if they have it 'more right' in the sense that they don't have building debt and the distractions that the whole church worship experience can be. Sounds simple and great to me. I completely understand what you meant by wanting to get away from 'fakey' friendships within the church. I struggle with that, too. And, speaking for myself, people are often so hard to love. (And yes, somewhere someone is saying that about me!) Kevin and I have talked about this issue at length. I have come to believe that struggling to love others who are annoying or less socially adept or who we have nothing in common with is a way to a) be refined further, and b) example to the world the powerful difference that Christ-like love makes. And boy, is this hard for me! I really want to be around people that I like and who are fun! As a matter of fact, I am feeling convicted as I write this.

Also, what you said about seeing your neighbors spending time together and feeling that you should be there with them, sharing Christ through your relationships, was so great. This is another thing that Kevin and I are really feeling convicted about. We do not reach out to our neighbors enough, for the same reasons that relationships with other believers are hard. I think we do need to be much more intentional about this area. We have mission fields right around us, but we don't tend to think of it that way. But, I think God wants us to meet together with other believers for all the above reasons, and give more of the rest of our week to others. And, friend, even if you are feeling 'dry' in the church setting, or not feeling that it has a point, I feel sure that your mere presence and example there (and service) is an encouragement to others. You guys are such a neat family. You really shouldn't deprive the church of the chance to know you!

Thoughts? Anyone? Anyone?

1 comment:

Martha said...

I am so glad you guys are in our church!! The kids were amazing tonight, and I just thought I would check my email and found your blog.