My two cents.

Okay, time for me to hop into this convo about church. The question is: "Isn't "the church" less institution and more people? I mean, those people who choose to follow Christ. That's the church. Do we really need to "go" to church?" Check out Houston and Jackie's blogs for opposing viewpoints on the subject. As is my wont, I'll be decidedly moderate.

I could rail indefinitely about the church and its infinite shortcomings...its pat formulas, squelching of creativity, staunch dogmas, absurd bickering, and all around disregard for Christ and His message of love and acceptance. But what it comes down to is that the church, in all its institutional glory, is really just a bunch of people doing what people do best: messing up. The problem is when people mass together they sometimes forget that they are only human and start wielding their power around as if they were God Himself.

If we were to stop looking at the church as some sort of mandate from God, and to start realizing that it is merely a gathering place for people, for learning, for being reminded weekly that we are all making this journey towards truth together, then maybe the church could regain some of the dignity it has lost. There are many beautiful things about the church: that it is a venue where thought about God and spirituality is accepted, that it joins people worldwide in common purpose and dialog, that it brings together a myriad of people from local communities, and that it is a public voice for love, generosity, and humanitarian causes.

In the end, the church will change when people change. I'm not about to give up on the beauty and truth of Christ's message just because a whole lot of people have skewed it to serve their own purposes. And I don't really think I should give up on the church, even though that's been seriously messed up, too. I think it can be something different, more aligned with Christ. I also think that there is enough unrest among young people in the church today to make that change. All we have to do is start actually living like Christ....the church will follow.


Just Wandering said...

I'd definitely agree with most of what you said. People have issues and are sinful, so why should we have unrealistic expectations of the Church that is organized and run by these very people.

I am also pretty hopeful about our generation that is starting to get into leadership positions in Churches. Compared to our parents, I think we're more open to those that are different, more community-minded, and more willing to move away from traditional ideas of what Church should be.

Andrew said...

Just to play devils advocate for a minute...

Remember that most churches, though structured as non profits, must make money to operate. There are a few salaries to pay, leases, utilities, misc opex obligations, etc. And in some cases, "Church" has become big business.

Because they have bills to pay, they will tend to go where the money is. This is why most churches don't care about youth. This is also why most churches aren't concerned about critiques such as open mindedness, creativity, intellectual exploration, theology, etc. It's because that's not the business of church.

The business of church is to get the most people coming back week after week, thus collecting tithe week after week. And how do you build this dependency? MAKE PEOPLE FEEL GOOD. Church has nothing to do with truth, faith, etc. It has to do with making you feel good. Making you feel good about your faith, your choices, your problems, your successes, your community, your friends, etc.

Quit going to church? That's not my advice. Just make sure your expectations are set correctly -- if you're looking for creative inquiry, fostered exploration, theological debate, and basically everything that spirituality is all about, understand church will never provide that for you. If you want to be flattered and reassured about your faith, by all means, go to church.

Or you could save your tithe money for beers, get some friends together, and really get down to the business of exploring your faith.

betsy said...

i totally agree that this is what many (most?) churches have become. but is it really impossible for the church to be genuine? every non-profit needs to make some money to function; surely they are not all corrupted by it. is there a way to keep the integrity of the church i.e. a structured community of learning and fellowship?

Peter said...

I have two points to make:

1. Betsy said that if we just be a little more like christ, then church would shape up, right? Maybe that's true. But can we ever accomplish that? I have my doubts. People like to say we can, that through day to day effort and sacrifice, we can be like Christ. But the problem is that nobody has ever accomplished this. Ever. We always fall short, screw up, become corrupted, lazy, selfish, whatever. It always happens. So won't the church always become what it has always been in the past? There has never been a perfect church, because the church has always been, as Bets so correctly put it, made up of people. But the problem is that people can't emulate Christ no matter how hard they try. Therefore, in my opinion, the church will never be Christ-like.

2. Another problem with the church is that is needs money. At least the church as we know it does. What is wrong with doing, like Andrew said, save the money, buy a beer, and talk spirituality? That is what I long for in church. Go to somebody's house, or go to Kell's, or Carnegie's or whatever, and talk. Live life. You don't have to sing spiritual songs, read spiritual passages, pray spiritual prayers. You can if you want to or feel like it, but what's wrong with just living life with others. That's "church". Community. Why do we have to support an established "business" with a big building and a big sound system and all that extra stuff. We seem to have gotten away from the whole point of Christianity: Love and togetherness.

Art said...

Alright, I can't resist this one!

Yes, the church, both as followers of Christ and as an institution, has faults and plenty of them. But the problem is, the only way we know they are faults is because they fall so short of the ideal. And it's the ideal, as exemplified by Christ, that we are after. No other human institution has this purpose or goal.

If we give up on church because of its faults, we are in danger of "throwing out the baby with the bath water"!

Instead, I think we must re-invent church. Even people who don't go to church seem to have a pretty good idea about what it should be.

To me, church is about worship and being in awe of God. It is also about being free to question and express doubts. It is about loving and understanding and forgiving and caring. And it is open to all truth.

I think we need to see where this happens best and move in that direction. Is it in a small group over a cup of coffee or a beer? Is it at someone's home rather than at a church building with a high mortgage? Perhaps in cyberspace? We may need to change the venue, but we are all desperate to experience the message.