so about a week ago, Blue Like Jazz author ‘Donald Miller’ blogged about why ‘I don’t worship God by Singing, I connect with Him elsewhere’ and the internet went wild – Burn the Witch! Okay not quite, although Don did tweet a little later, ‘Blogged about not going to church today. More shame and guilt @replies than I’ve ever received on twitter. I feel immense forgiveness.’
He followed this one up with one titled, ‘Why I don’t go to church very often, a follow up blog.’ and once again people went nuts.
i feel like i have some idea of what Don was trying to say and i definitely agreed with him on some stuff and so responded with this of my own:
and the internet went absolutely… well ‘as you were’ [i’m not a very big internet rippler]…
but then anyone who is anyone [and many who are not] had an opinion and most of them were writing blog posts on it and the topic gained a lot of airplay which is not the worst of things – hopefully people have been listening to each other and at least trying to hear what everyone else is saying and hopefully God will be moving our hearts towards a better and more effective understanding of what church is and what it is meant to be…
WHY YOU SHOULD STOP GOING TO CHURCH
well, firstly you shouldn’t! [stop going to church i mean] that’s not what i am saying. i don’t think that’s what Don was saying. and while some people took a moment to listen and then responded to what they heard, i think the majority of people got an idea in their head and then responded to that. which was largely unhelpful.
if you know me to any level of depth you will know that i am a champion of the church. in fact if you ask me what my passion is in life, i will describe it this way: i am passionate about seeing the church live out who we say we are and who we are supposed to be.
i am thoroughly convinced that the church is God’s idea and plan and method of transforming this world, BUT i am not convinced that that needs to take place on a sunday at a particular building.
and i don’t want to spend this whole post trying to speak on behalf of Donald Miller, because i can’t, but my impression was that he was saying the same thing on this point – i am not trying to get people to stop meeting and ‘doing church’ on sundays… what i am trying to suggest is that maybe church or the church is a little bit bigger than that.
IT’S ALL GREEK TO ME
my tag team buddy, Sean Du Toit, who studies Greek and reads commentaries for fun, had this to say:
I think you’ve missed something significant by making the word “church” a synonym for “people of God”. The word ἐκκλησία means ‘assembly’, or ‘gathering’. In the Greek Lexicon, Louw-Nida describe the term this way: “The term ἐκκλησία was in common usage for several hundred years before the Christian era and was used to refer to an assembly of persons constituted by well- defined membership… For the NT it is important to understand the meaning of ἐκκλησία as ‘an assembly of God’s people.’ In the rendering of ἐκκλησία a translator must beware of using a term which refers primarily to a building rather than to a congregation of believers. In many contexts ἐκκλησία may be readily rendered as ‘gathering of believers’ or ‘group of those who trust in Christ.’”
And more, which you can read in the comments section in my first blog on this.
however, this and many other comments addressed to Don or myself seems to insinuate/assume or imply that i was suggesting that Christ followers don’t need to gather. and that is completely not true – there is no community without communing and i believe strongly in community. what i keep saying is that maybe the gathering doesn’t have to necessarily be on a Sunday in a church building. it can be [and good for those who do that and are part of that – like i am, i am part of a church congregation that meets on a Sunday – this whole discourse is not me trying to get out of doing that] but it can also be other types of gathering which will need to be intentional but which perhaps can take place at a meal table, breaking actual bread and drinking wine and being closer perhaps to what Jesus meant when He said, ‘Do this in remembrance of Me?’
the other side of this whole conversation for me is the mission of the church, which includes things like:
 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, mind and your neighbour as yourself. Also love your enemy and bless them.
 Forgiving everyone who has wronged you and even interrupting worship if necessary to go and make right with a brother who has sinned against you.
 Making disciples and baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything Jesus taught us
 Reaching out to the least of these, in particular widows and orphans
oh, and  Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me and  be known by the Love we have for each other and be one in Christ.
Now i know Sunday congregations that are barely living out the mission of the church – in fact there are many where people come and are entertained and pretty much watch or maybe participate in a performance and then return home largely unchanged and expect that other people will do the above things which is after all why they put their money in the collection plate anyways.
I also know groups of people in different guises who do not attend a Sunday congregation necessarily but who love God and are completely living out the mission of the church in community and who are growing and being led and wrestling with scripture and serving those around them and worshipping God through art and spoken word and music and dance.
According to the majority of the internet buzz, we are saying that the first group is more “Church” than the second group.
What i am wondering is, when both groups stand before Jesus one day, which one will He identify as His bride?
The Parable of the Two Sons [Matthew 21]
28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ 29 ” ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. 30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.
Those who said they were the thing vs. Those who were the thing? Would love to hear your thoughts…
I’ve heard from my buddy Sean so far… what things do YOU think define church as this thing we are needing to be part of?
[in case it wasn’t clear enough, i want to state that i am NOT telling you to leave church – just to understand a wider definition for it that may be larger than the idea you have in mind – there needs to be a combination of people gathering together – in some way, place, form – but also people living out the Jesus-followingness of being a Christian – has to be both!]