Are We”Doing Church”All Wrong?

A lot has been said about what “Church” should look like.
Thousands of books have been written about it.
There are many, many workshops and educated teachers whose primary purpose is to instruct the Church how to be…how to exist.

But…

What if we are doing Church all wrong?
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Many denominations have glommed onto specific acts of worship – Baptism, Communion, Flag waving, Altar calls, Speaking in tongues, Music Styles, Multi-media blitzes…etc.  -And these are all good things -sometimes important elements of worship, BUT what happens when these “good things” become the main focal point?  Could they become over emphasized?  Could these mere elements of worship become worship itself – completely devoid of its original purpose?

In the process of becoming “Church”…are there times when we lose sight of why we’re a Church in the first place?   I don’t mean to deconstruct the Body of Christ today, but I feel very strongly about this subject.  I believe our belonging to Christ is enough…we do not need rituals to maintain or get closer to God.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am not saying that these elements of worship are all rituals, but when we do them week after week, month after month, year after year – and we just go through the motions of them…are we in danger of making these outward expressions of the inward change a ritual?

I am not saying that we throw the baby out with the bath water here, but perhaps we need to be more conscious of what we do in worship.

churchAnother question that I often ponder is this –
Is the Body of Christ really supposed to look like the Churches that we see in our communities today?  Are we really supposed to be separated and divided?  
Again, this is not a bash upon any church or denomination, but rather an intern perspective here.  I believe that man made edifices have, at times, taken the holiness out of our holy of holies.

When we try to organize everything, and building our kingdoms, when we try and grow our congregations and sometimes compete against the church down the street…have we lost sight of why we’re a church in the first place?

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ACTS 2 Church 
The Acts 2 church looks vastly different that any church that I know of today.
These men and women lived in community together…kind of like a commune, but more like a family…not a cult, but a body of Christ built together out of love.  They shared EVERY Resource that they had.  They ate together, they prayed together, they added to their numbers daily.  People saw their love of Christ and it was infectious!

We live in a very individualistic society today…we don’t really understand the Hebrew culture of the Acts 2 church.  We don’t get to be that close any more in our churches.  Sure, we invite one another out to eat after church, or we go to one another’s homes…but our worship services today are so structured and methodical…there’s an order to it.  I am not saying that this is wrong, but sometimes “Community” only becomes achieved on Sundays for an hour or two, and maybe a during another hour at midweek.  We don’t look like that early church anymore.

I wish I had an answer in how we can recapture some of that fellowship…wait there is – Discipleship.  Fellowship.  Family.

We must be more intentional in our church families to be disciples as well as disciplers.
We don’t always operated as individuals  in the Body of Christ – we are joined together, and we need that fellowship – just as God desires that kind of fellowship with us!
What if true Church was more about that fellowship than the number of scripturally accurate hymns or contemporary songs we sing on Sundays?  What if God desires more than just a water baptism or a morsel of bread and wine on our lips?  What if it’s not about flag waving but heart changing?  What if Church is more about what we do outside of the walls of a million dollar structure than what we do on the inside?

I think we get so blindsided by our elements of worship that we forget to look outside.
Sure, we need to be fed, but if all we do is gorge ourselves in our buildings while the world around us is starving, are we “Doing Church” right?

holyI think that before we can “Do Church” we have to “BE Imitators of Christ“…We have to experience the inward change of our hearts before any of these outward things can be evident and real.  After all, wasn’t it God’s instruction to “Be Holy”…not “Do Holy” (Lev 20:26)  We get these backwards many, many times.

I pray that within our walls of “Church” we first focus on being reflections of Him, then we take that reflection into the world so that others might see Him and believe as well!

Something more to ponder today!
You might disagree with me…so be it.

To God be the glory!

God called His Bride to be Sheep-stealers and growth competitive??

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We utter agreements to work together.  We vow to ‘come along side one another’.  But are all these promises false?  Are we faking it ? I’m speaking to fellow pastors and church members.  Do we really intend to support each other even if we don’t belong to the same denomination or brick and mortar church?

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It seems all too often that we are so preoccupied with what we are doing in our ministries that we do not have time to support the greater ecclesia.  We have our heads down and we are plodding onward completely oblivious that there are other Christians in our own community struggling and in need of Christian fellowship and support.

Is this what Christ had in mind when He prayed to the Father “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,  that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” John 17:20-21  I don’t think this is what Christ had in mind at all.  In fact I believe that He is greatly saddened by our separation from one another.

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“Don’t be a sheepstealer!”

Conversely then, if we are called His bride, we the church, how can we justify the sheep stealing that takes place among churches?  Are we in competition with one another?  Has it become strictly about who has the most congregants in the pews?  Will God, one day reward us in heaven for the amount of sheep we have stolen from another flock?  NO!  I’ve literally seen the smirks and pride on the faces of some pastors when they compare their churches.  This ought not be!!!  I have witnessed the arrogance of some who look down on smaller congregations simply because of their size of memberships.   This cannot exist in the body of Christ!  I am not saying this because I grew up in small congregations and also now pastor one.  I’m saying this because when we start comparing our church flocks and when we start looking down our noses at other Christians we allow sin and pride into our midst.  After all didn’t Jesus say; “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45 (NIV)

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“Sad but true!”

Pastors, stop acting prideful of your accomplishments.  Stop comparing yourselves with what other churches are doing and looking down your noses at smaller congregations.  Don’t let pride seep into who God has call His body to be.   Congregations stop trying to be better than the church down the street.  Stop wearing a fake front in order to impress and steal congregational members from other churches!  You are hurting the body of Christ!

Is this an indictment on the Western Church?  Perhaps.  But am I to judge?  It’s not my place to throw blame anywhere, I’m just as guilty as the next pastor is.  But what I am saying is beware, be careful pastors and church members!  Satan would love nothing more than to tear you down with your pride and arrogance so that you resemble more of the world and less like Christ.  Watch out, because he would love nothing more than to destroy our fellowship of believers!

God’s Bride needs to stop comparing.  She needs to stop the sheep stealing and competing with itself.  We cannot act like the world because we are made for so much more than this.  We are to reflect the very heart of Christ…and if we aren’t then we either need to readjust our course or be prepared to face His displeasure and judgement.

Not a part of the Holy Eucharist?

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I had an interesting conversation today. It took place in the parking lot on my way to see someone in the hospital. There in the hospital parking lot this gentleman spotted my uniform and inquired if I was a member of The Salvation Army. I indicated I was indeed and he proceeded to tell me that we did great work for people in need…I could almost hear the ‘BUT’ coming a mile away. Finally after a few additional compliments he came to his ‘but’, when he said, “But you guys are not completely a part of God’s family because you don’t have His holy Eucharist inside you.”

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Wow, what do you say to a complete stranger in a parking lot after only a few pleasantries have just been exchanged? There really wasn’t time to delve into it right then and there, I was on a mission of sorts to visit a parishioner. I found it interesting that in a parking lot I was engaged in a theological conversation…I didn’t have the time to engage.

So since I didn’t then, let me tell you what I would have said.

His argument: We (The Salvation Army & most Protestants) Are not completely a part of the body of Christ because we don’t have the holy Eucharist in us.

I couldn’t disagree more with his pompous take on theology! What he essentially struck me as proud and even elitism. Does God desire practice over faith? Often times religious conflict comes from theological misunderstandings or staunch stubborn persuasions. His assertion was that because we do not practice Communion or partake in Eucharist we are not a part of Christ. Hmm…was it the work of bread and wine that spurred the disciples into converting many at the day of Pentecost? Was it bread and wine that brought the Apostle Paul to the knowledge of Christ?

No! In fact I would contend that the Holy Spirit is an element that many high churches miss out on in their practice of Eucharist. Sure the practice can become ritualistic and lose its meaning, but His Holy Spirit is not mentioned enough within their church practices. How can one participate in Communion/Eucharist and completely miss the point of such a ceremony?

Is the practice of such a ceremony an act of Salvation? I would contend again that it is not! In fact, there are still many churches who say that if people do not partake in Eucharist they aren’t saved. How can this be? Did Jesus say ” Do this in remembrance of me to be saved?” No! He simply said, “Do this in remembrance of me”. What is ‘this’ that Jesus refers to? Was it solely the breaking of the bread and drinking of the wine? I do not believe it to be so. When Jesus later prayed to the Father that his disciples be One just has He and the Father were One, I believe there is significance there. Jesus wanted unity, peace amongst his followers. When they were to fellowship over a meal together, whether it was the Passover or even a simple shared meal the remembrance, I believed was conveyed in their meeting, not just the elements of Eucharist.

Secondly what makes the Eucharist holy? What is holy anyway? I’m sure there will be those who may disagree with me and that’s fine but where does Holiness come from? The only true source of Holiness is God himself. Who is able to bless something in order to make it holy then? Man? Are we ever worthy enough to make something holy in and of our own selves? I’m not denying that His Holy Spirit can’t indwell within us and work through us, but to claim that something is always holy just because of practice is foolish.

When we understand the source of Holiness, then how much weight should we then place of ritual? Is Communion in and of itself a source of Salvation? No. Who does provide Salvation and Redemption from our sins? Jesus himself, through His sacrifice…and “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) Did Paul indicated anything in there about breaking bread and drinking wine to save your soul? Is that how we gain access to ‘the body’? No. Confession, belief and faith are the ingredients, if you will, for our salvation!

So what is Eucharist then?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not condemning its practice here by any means. What I am condemning is the ingrained denominational notion that if one does not practice Eucharist regularly they aren’t a part of the body of Christ. That is simply foolishness and a slant to the scriptures that was never meant to be. Should we participate in Communion in church? I think that there is a time and place for it. I think that some very sacred moments can come from it, but do I think that it ought to be practiced every Sunday? No, and here’s why. It loses significance and symbolism, and instead of something sacred can become monotonous and mundane.

Lastly, to the churches who teach that Eucharist is mandated and lack of practice is detrimental to our salvation…think again. Stop dividing the body of Christ! We become elitist when practice replaces holiness, and judgement is measured out by the hands of man. Salvation belongs to Christ, and those who call upon His name will be saved.

There is no perfect church here on earth, just imperfect people striving to be like Christ. When we allow His indwelling to be evident in the outpouring of our faith then, perhaps we have the authority to speak on such things.

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