So i think i have a different understanding and idea of church than a number of people i know.

And my picture of what church is feels a lot bigger, rather than smaller, than some other peoples. i am not saying that the Sunday church local congregation vibe is not church, but i am suggesting that maybe it is more than that.

One example for me has always been so-called ‘para-church’ organisations like Scripture Union and Youth With a Mission. Kingdom-focused people doing kingdom-focused things. How is that not the church? It fits in with both the ‘bride of Christ’ and the ‘body of Christ’ metaphors that Jesus used to describe His church.

Yet, for a whole lot of people, if you are not attending a meeting at that particular place on that particular day [which must be a Sunday, by the way] then you are on some kind of a slippery slope and should be very careful.

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Something like that. And while people we know would probably not quite put it in those words, there is a strong sense of ‘Not Alrightness’ when people hear you are not attending a local church.

“We must pray for the Andersons.”

The beautiful Val [tbV] and myself went to visit a church yesterday morning. And on the way home we were chatting and really interested in the idea that ‘This’ [our morning experience] ‘is the thing people are very concerned we become a part of.’

i wrote a piece recently on how we [as christians] have far too often gotten caught up in majoring on the minors, while neglecting or sometimes skipping completely the things God seems to think are majors.

WHAT CONCERNS YOU, CONCERNS ME

For example, there are literally thousands of verses in the Bible that talk about the poor and our attitude and action towards them, the fact that to Jesus, having some kind of outreach or relationship or investment with the poor seemed to be a big deal.

There are not thousands of verses talking about being part of a local congregation and giving them ten percent of your money.

Yet, which of those two get church-going-people freaked out when they are not happening?

That’s right. We are more than okay with attending a meeting once a week with a majority of people who have absolutely no engagement with the poor at all [beyond the ten percent we throw in the bag, box, tin as it goes past because then job done, conscience cleansed, someone will now be looking after the poor with that money, slash paying the church electricity bill] but panic stations when someone we know who professes to love Jesus, are not in regular attendance.

So first of all, i think it is imperative to figure out what are the things God is wanting us to major on, to prioritise, to make essential in our lives and to make sure we are doing those, and then to fill in whatever gaps may appear around those with everything else.

And secondly, before you get too concerned that tbV and i have ‘not found a church yet’, look at yourself in the mirror and then at those who sit next to you at church and through the lens of giving-to-the-poor see if you should be more concerned about that. Then continue to pray for us.

WHAT IS THIS CHURCH YOU WANT ME TO BE A PART OF?

A lot of this is stuff i have covered in my book which i am furiously working towards self-publishing. So watch this space or something.

The service we visited yesterday was not particularly our style. One of the things we spoke about as we drove home was, ‘Is THAT the thing people are so concerned we are a part of?’

And so this is my genuine question [and i’d love it if you would take a few minutes and leave an answer in the comments section cos i really am interested in how you would answer this question], what exactly is this church you want me to be a part of?

When tbV and i were part of the Simple Way community in Philly, we had morning prayer times [with a group of gathered people]five times a week where each time we read a passage from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament, a Psalm, sang a song together, read some liturgy together and had an open time of praying for whatever was on our heart. Our weekly ‘work’ was largely serving those in the community around us [so trying to love our neighbours well].

In fact, when i talk about it to other people, i usually conclude by saying, ‘the only thing we missed in terms of regular congregational church services was corporate worship’ – singing together in a group. Which i am not now even convinced is the way tbV or i would particularly primarily choose to worship God. [There is not a lot of space or patience or understanding in the church for those who don’t particularly like to sing – typically it is met with a suck-it-up-this-is-the-only-way-to-really-worship-God attitude].

So please tell me, before you let me know my views on church are wrong or how important it is that we are part of a local church, what does that mean? What exactly is the thing you are wanting me to be a part of?

DESPERATELY SEEKING CHURCHING 

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tbV and i have visited a few church services since being back [as people have invited us] and i definitely have Common Ground Wynberg on my list for the next free Sunday we have cos that sounds like a great mix of people. But we haven’t been panic’d about it. We are in a period of transition where we don’t even know where we are going to be living yet and so committing to a group of people in an area far off from where we land doesn’t seem like the most sensible of things.

So on the one hand, not desperate in terms of ‘Must. Find. A. Church.’

But on the other had, we chatted about it during the same conversation and both agreed that we are not happy with our current state of non-regular-community as an ongoing thing. We both realise and acknowlege that gathering is good. That breaking bread together feels essential. That journeying with a specific group of people can be really helpful.

i do imagine however, that neither of us would be too concerned if that did not happen on a Sunday. Regular gathering with a group of Jesus-following people on a different day of the week feels like it might be okay to us. [Runs to check bible]

i also imagine that not meeting in a church building would be okay with us. And probably more than okay. I imagine if we were given the choice of church building or home or pub on the corner or coffee shop that church building would probably come in 4th. Jesus spent time in the Temple. Absolutely. But He also spent probably a lot more of His time churching outside of the official building – in boats and on hillsides and at dinner tables and at wells.

i have a deep hunger for the Word of God [the bible] – understanding it better and knowing it more and so whether by myself or with other people, i imagine that will likely always be an important part of what we do. Wrestling with the words and actions of Jesus and the early church and how they often look so different from ours. Engaging with the Scripture as opposed to merely having it spoken at us. [This feels like a definite area the local church would do well to have transformation in, although it would require a LOT of work and would more than likely be EXTREMELY messy, which is perhaps why we stick to man at the front giving the message and no or little space for questions or push-back or engagement].

i want to see people brought into relationship with God. i really don’t feel like i have a gift of evangelism and think actually that i am particularly bad at it [although every now and then God manages to use me anyways] but i believe that it is important and want to see it happen and am not convinced that a Sunday meeting in a church building is the best place for those outside of the church to be brought near [because the stuff we do when we get together is PRETTY WEIRD to those not used to it – think singing and arm-raising and dipping tiny pieces of cracker into pretend wine which we refer to as blood and so on]. But around a dinner table might be, or in a lounge where an intentional conversation has been initiated and so on.

And so on.

Do i think Sunday church gathering in that particular building is church? Absolutely [as long as it is much bigger than just that hour and a half meeting – if that is all your churching is, then you need the prayer] – if the Sunday gathering does not inform or empower the rest of your week experience and your whole life, in fact, then i seriously think you need to rethink that area of your life.

But bigger than that, i see ‘the church’ as a singular entity made up of smaller and larger church congregations and what we call para-church organisations [a horrible name, cos they are not outside of/separate from the church] who are the gathering people of God working together for His kingdom things. Or more simply the people of God doing God stuff together.

i absolutely don’t think it is healthy or even biblical to be a  ‘christian-without-church’ because God definitely calls us to do His stuff together. But i also do understand why so many people have walked away from traditional sunday church services as the expression of the only way church can be.

We are the bride of Christ, not the harem.

We are the body of Christ, not the bodies of Christ.

There really only is one church, although many smaller expressions of how that plays out.

i think, when we truly understand what church is all about, then it will become the question of Monday to Saturday, rather than Sunday, ‘Are you going to church today?’ [where church is a verb, rather than a noun of place]. Are you going to be being the body of Jesus and the bride of Christ to all of those who you encounter this day?

i would absolutely LOVE to hear your thoughts and response on this one… [be gentle]

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