Monday, April 28, 2008

Here's the Church, Here's the Steeple....

IN our almost 17 years of marriage, Scott and I have lived in only two places, our first apartment for 18 months, and our first and only house that we live in now. In that same time, we've been members of four different churches. The number itself startles me....In my mind, we are not church-hoppers. But that seems like a lot of churches in a relatively short period of time.

At the beginning, we went to the church that Scott and his parents went to, a 400ish member church, with 200ish people attending each week. We started serving by teaching a 5th grade Sunday School class, helped with the high school youth group, served on boards, then taught the high school Sunday School class, and even taugh one series for adult Sunday School. We were there for seven years. After we had Luke, and Lars was getting to be pre-school age, we felt we needed to find a church in our community where we live. So, we made our first switch, moving to a church 5 minutes from home with great teaching that was part of a similar denomination.

Shortly after that, the denomination that Scott grew up in (the Evangelical Covenant Church) started a church plant in our town. We met with the folks in the core group, prayed long and hard, and felt called to be a part of that fledgling group. So, we made another switch.

The core group of that church plant never really grew big enough to sustain itself. After more than a year or so, we all had to let go of the dream that we felt sure God had given us. The outcome we had all pictured in taking that step of obedience wasn't what God had planned. Looking back, I can see without question that He was at work there and that we experienced tremendous growth. At the time, we were full of questions, and he gently guided each of us to different churches as we all had to make a switch.

Which led us to where we are now. Our fourth church. Our church is a "mega", "multi-site", "big box", whatever label you want to give It's not where we expected to be. It's wonderful in many ways. It's different from what we're used to in many ways.

And I wonder today, after reading a few blogs about church and getting all thinky about it, what is church really all about? I can get all heady and theological (are we emerging, missional, the value of the liturgy and so on...), or mushy and emotional (do we like it here, how does this or that make me feel....). What does it really boil down to? What did God have in mind for the church?

I'll tell you what I think, or at least the beginning of what I think. Jesus said to "go into the world and make disciples." I think the church is a place where we gather with others, all the different parts of the body, to get equipped to go out there and make disciples. It's a place where we get opportunities to make disciples right there in that building, and where we get encouragement to go out and do it. I'm not sure if God cares about the other stuff--the labels, the sizes, the comfort. I'd like to hear what you think, too.


Alan and Judy said...

I think you are right, that the primary responsibility of the church is to equip believers so that they can make disciples wherever they go. I also agree that labels, sizes and comfort do not matter. The important thing is to find a place where the people are of like mind, wanting to be equipped for making disciples, and wanting to share with one another about what God is doing in their lives and support one another spiritually.

The other purpose of the church is to be a place where believers worship God together, where they glorify and praise Him.

I am not even sure how many churches we have attended since becoming Christians in 1972, and living in five different locations. I do know that none of these buildings we call "church" is the real Church. However, we have had a hard time finding a place where the other people (including the pastors in many cases) are really that excited about talking about God and what He is doing in their everyday lives. We aren't even going to church now, although this is not how we really want it to be. I think if the apostle Paul walked into most of today's churches he would be very disappointed that what he started did not continue and grow the way God intended.

So when people move from one church to another, in search of one that will better equip them to serve God, (not because of some petty disagreement over the color of the carpet or something) it speaks more of the state of today's "churches" than it does of the individuals who are looking for more.

I don't know if this is the kind of comment you were looking for, but it is certainly on my mind a lot.


--julie said...

Hey Mom,
I'm looking for any and all comments!

You're right, the buildings aren't the churches. And when I talk about it being a place to equip us to make disciples, I mean that the making of disciples stuff that happens Mon-Sat....and our church does need to help us remember that! God wants to be active in our lives every day.

Michelle Van Loon said...

Good post, Julie -
I love hearing people wrestle with what it is to be the church. A lot of us settle for "going to church" or "doing church". You are asking the kinds of questions that go along with BEING the church - which is a whole `nother (kingdom) thing.

On a separate note - you've been tagged - by me! Check out my blog, then pass it on if you want.

The rules:
a. Link to the person who tagged you.
b. Post the rules on your blog.
c. Write six random things about yourself.
d. Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs.
e. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment at their blog.
f. Let your tagger know when your entry is up.

--julie said...

Hey Michelle,

Thanks. Lots of wrestling here!

And thanks for the tag. I can think of random things about myself, but I don't know if I know 6 other people who blog. Most of the blogs I read have hundreds of hits and gazillions of comments...
I'll have to put on my thinking cap!

Alan and Judy said...

Oh no, more thinking? Doesn't your head get tired? (Just kidding)