Tuesday, December 5, 2006

A Conversation With Brick and Mortar

Here's the dialogue:

Are you a Christian?

-yeah, I go to First Mt. Gilboa St. Lutheran Church of the Episcopal-esian Tabernacle Assembly

Oh, ok, but are you a Christian?

-well, yeah, I told you I go to church

Who's the pastor over there?

-oh, i don't know his name, hard to remember

That's cool. But do you have a relationship with Jesus Christ?

-dude, didn't you hear me? I mean, I taught bible study for 2 years over there!

I recently hung out with some old friends that I haven't seen in years. You don't know what uncomfortable is until you see old friends squirm because they find out you're a minister - and now they feel like they have to put up a front of some sort. As if I didn't already yell at my wife and speed on my way to see these friends that very day. I might even have kicked the dog, but I don't have one. I suppose I hate that aspect of my career - the weirdness. I'd rather you cuss like a sailor and just be yourself rather than hide behind some fascade of secrecy because of what you think about who I am due to my beliefs.

It seems like the conversations with acquaintances, whether distant family, old friends, or new people I meet - these conversations always head towards church. Don't get me wrong, church is cool, but there's some weird thing that happens where a person sometimes feels a need to justify their good life to me by letting me know about their church and their activities within that church, etc. Did I mention that I yelled at my wife and kicked my proverbial dog for no good reason that very day on the way to see them?

Here's a potentially memorable statement I made to my wife after the most recent conversation similar to the above:

"I think church just might be the least significant part of my faith."

Maybe I'm wrong. But I don't think so. And I'm a full-time staff member at a church. It reminds me of the Jewish converts back in Hebrews (it's a book in the Bible). These people were used to God's Old Testament system of the priesthood. A system of never-ending rules, rituals and sacrifices. Now on top of that these people were persecuted in every way. Can you imagine the temptation to just give up all this Jesus stuff and go back to their comfort zone of old familiar ways? I think we sometimes fall back on the rituals and the rules. Maybe we know the truth, maybe we don't know the truth.

The writer in Hebrews is giving a picture of church. He talks about the greatness of God and what He accomplished for us through Jesus Christ. He looks at the temple of the Old Testament and shows how it was really just a picture of Christ all along. It all pointed to Jesus. He then says, basically, to take all of that greatness and talk about it with others - church!
Church. Not the building. Not the system of beliefs. The people. I'm the church.
The writer says to encourage love, to encourage good deeds, and to not stop meeting.

A few thoughts:

So what is the church? The church is me

Where is the church? It's where believers are encouraging one another - in a building, on a plane, on the cell phone, at Wal-Mart.

Why do we come to a building and call it church? Well, because it's encouraging to come together in a large group as believers.

I think that having a genuine faith means that we have "church" frequently in places outside of a church building. Don't you? If we say that Christianity is something we do on Sundays in a building, well, I'm pretty sure that's nothing more than a club of tie-wearing, ignorant people. If i'm the church, then the church is me. It's not the place I go to on occasion. Just like the Jewish converts of old, we sometimes tend to rest on the rituals. I think sometimes we have the assumption that going to church checks the box on our spiritual/social agendas. That's a waste of time. If we're the church, yet we lean on a building and call it church, then in reality it is a worthless faith - mere ritual.

Do you have a genuine faith?

Church should be a time of encouragement and learning to support the Christ-like life we live outside of the church walls. We come here(church), so we can do there (not church).

Church isn't the doing. There is the doing. There is what it's about. There is where it really matters. There is where Jesus was loving people.

It was on my heart...