Tuesday, April 28, 2009

'Doing' church

(Thanks to my fellow blog-conspirator/friend/all-round nice guy Peter for stirring up the muse on this subject.)
Is church something we 'do'? Like 'doing' coffee?
Or should it be something we 'are', like being human, or Caucasian (or wherever you fit).
Church has to be bigger and much more encompassing than:
--an hour or two on Sunday
--a list of doctrinal non-negotiables
--an inward-focused gathering of people in search of warm fuzzy experiences.
Sure, church will involve fellowship, some mutually-held values, good times, and personal edification.
But really, that isn't the picture of the Kingdom Jesus taught about. That's not the example He lived, or the lifestyle of a disciple.
If a disciple is a follower, an emulator, and we are called to make disciples (Matt 28:19, 20), then we should be following Jesus' example, and leading others to do the same. And that list of typical church descriptors doesn't exactly fit. Maybe it's time to read the Gospels again and truly see what our leader was like.

In his book “The last word and the word after that”, Brian McLaren uses the phrase 'catholic, missional, monastic faith communities' as a better description of the group of people otherwise called the church.
missional—focused on the good of the world
monastic—a community based on common practices.
Do those words come close to hitting on the strong points of Jesus' message? Do they come close to describing the group of Christ-followers sometimes known as the church? How are we doing in moving forward into that description?
Catholic—most of us are recognizing and celebrating our common faith rather than promoting our particular doctrinal position. Unity rather than division.
Missional—more and more we are desiring to make the world a better place, whether it is a greater awareness of environmental issues or human rights like justice or equality. Some people may still have the notion that 'It's all going to burn anyway', but gradually we are owning the need to fight for justice, and to make a difference, today.
Monastic—don't get sidetracked by the image of bald men dressed in simple robes, separated from society, studying the Bible and praying all day in silence. The 'new monastics' are living in cities, holding down jobs, etc., but are doing things in community—loving, serving, praying, fighting. Most of us have a ways to grow when it comes to this kind of community.

So it isn't a matter of 'going' church better, but truly being the church. New styles of worship, liturgy or location aren't the focus—although they may well be a part of the result.
The 'doing' needs to be “How am I following Jesus, How am I loving like Him, How does my life look like His?”
(By the way, if your theology doesn't allow you to follow Christ's example in some area, guess what needs to change!)

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