Tag Archive: sunday church


bare feet church

i was busy painting my block for the uThando leNkosi wall painting project as part of our 67 minutes and a bit for Mandela Day yesterday when things got a little interesting.

A lady i had just met, assuming i guess, that we were a bunch of christians helping out with this project, decided to break some ice, by turning to those closest to her and asking, ‘What church do you go to?’

My friend Megan, one of my fellow improvisers, who had jumped at the chance to get involved, proudly exclaimed, “i am an enthusiastic atheist!” or something to that effect.

Not wanting to appear completely thrown by that little speed bump, my fellow painter declared, “Well that sounds like fun.” Again, my day-after-the-effect paraphrase. Painting resumed.

wall2

TAKE TWO

A while later Megan had moved on to another part of the wall and my new friend decided to try again and so i started to explain the most recent dynamic of visiting a bunch of churches since returning to Cape Town as opposed to particularly committing to any one. The conversation moved to the fact that she had Catholic roots and what did i feel about the Catholic church? i explained that i believe that the rest of the church has a lot to learn from the Catholic church in terms of holiness and respect and awe for God with the tendency of more modern day churches to adopt more of a Jesus-is-my-buddy approach.

She seemed to resonate with this and said that the one thing she couldn’t stand about a lot of the other churches she had visited was the lack of respect. “I really can’t stand it when people don’t wear shoes for example.”

“I was a pastor for six years in a Vineyard church and i never wore shoes,” i quickly and gently responded.

By way of back-peddling, i guess, she said something about the need for honouring the space and the occasion, like for example, weddings.

“I have conducted three weddings and did each of them barefoot,” i responded.

i went on to explain how i did it intentionally, using the story of Moses and the burning bush and the idea of taking off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. The picture of a marriage being something that God sees as holy ground, despite how the world has typically done what it can to reduce the idea to something more me-focused and consumerist.

i can’t remember what happened next, but i don’t remember continuing that conversation and so she very well might have found another part of the wall that needed urgent attention.

barefoot in church

TRUTH OR TRADITION OR BOTH?

For those of us who are part of the church, i believe it is so important to regularly take a step back and look at the things we do [and possibly also the things we like and appreciate about what we do]

Are there things we do which are simply tradition, done because everyone always did them since that time the first person did them, but not necessarily biblical or Godly things? And should we perhaps stop doing some of those?

Are there things we don’t do that might be things that are really good to do according to God and the bible and the history of the church?

Are there some that maybe fall kinda in the middle – fun and good things to do but not particularly called for by God or the Bible and we are free to make a choice as to whether we want to keep doing them or not?

Do we question? Do we critique? Do we regularly test the things we do? What affect might they have on outsiders, on visitors? Do we take time to explain some of the weird stuff and traditions when people are visiting?

Does what happens on a Sunday [if that is when we meet together as church] strengthen, encourage, equip and empower us for the work of being the church for the rest of the week as we work, as we family, as we sport and as we relationship?

If so, let’s keep on with it… happy churching!

i didn’t.

strangely the world has not ended yet, but we ARE on African time, so maybe give it a few hours.

in fact, we’ve been back in South Africa for three weeks now and are yet to attend a sunday gathering [gasp!]

some people are not okay with this, and we’re okay with them not being okay

i don’t imagine i will be standing in front of God one day and He will be looking down at me [cos that’s the posture you take when you ask this question] saying, “So, skipped three weeks of church in a row, eh?”

gotochurch

what i did do this week was read my Bible – i have been working through 1 and 2 Peter, reading them the whole way through again andagain, trying to get a feel for the whole letters in context and dig a little deeper than a single visit will do for me. i did this with Philippians once, where i read the whole book [yes, all four chapters!] every day for a month. surprisingly i didn’t get bored, but found that the more i went through it, the more i started to see. once you get to know the main bits and get familiar with them, then things that were hidden in the background start to surface and often surprise you and get you thinking and acting a little more deeply.

another thing i did this week was pray. for my sick wife [still sick]. for my best friend with cancer [really struggling this week. conversations with God about why He doesn’t seem to heal people when i pray for them. invitation for God to help me be more patient and less snappy with my beautiful wife. prayer for a number of friends who have lost loved ones this week. prayer for the right opportunity of the what-next for my life. asking God to just generally reveal Himself to me and increase my faith during what can typically be a tough time of transition. and more.

one thing i did this week was show hospitality. to friends i know and friends of my family who i didn’t know before. from simply inviting them into our current home to making them tea and coffee or hanging out with them and hopefully helping them have a good time.

i also took some time to encourage some people online. from friends i know who are sick to strangers i don’t know who commented on a blog piece i wrote and seem to be in a place of struggle. nothing revolutionary perhaps and certainly quite easy to do, but hopefully in a way that conveyed love and shared hope and helped bring some life.

we broke bread and ate together with family and had conversations dealing with God and mission and how to use money well and more. wrestled a little bit with the types of shows that we watch and how each of us probably has our own hypocricies in terms of what we think people should not be watching, but what we are okay with. great food for thought and an opportunity to share ideas and learn from other peoples’ decisions.

we worked together on training up children in the way they should grow [Val’s sister’s kids who we are currently living with] and tried to love God and love the people who crossed our paths [whether they were beggars at the traffic lights or the Jehovah’s Witnesses who interrupted this blog post by ringing the doorbell to hand me a tract to invite me to a meeting to inform me why we need a one world government] and said sorry for when we had hurt someone or got it wrong. we cared for the sick as best we could [even though these sick were our own which made it a lot easier to be motivated for].

and some other stuff.

i imagine if i asked one of the early disciples of Jesus if they had gone to church today, they would have looked at me a little bit funny or completely confused.

“Go to Church? Go to Church? How do i possibly do that?”

And sure, they had the example of the temple and then later on had the practice of home gatherings [where according to Acts 2 , ‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.’]

i’m not convinced they had the concept of ‘Sunday church’ because it goes on to say, Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.’ [Acts 2 Parts of 42-47]

i am not suggesting for a moment, that the sunday church meeting and larger context of congregation or community is bad. no, i think it is great, especially when it is.

what i am suggesting is that maybe there is more to it than that.

did i ‘go to church’ this week? i did not.

but was i church this week? absolutely.  in some many ways that count.

and it is possibly that many people who ‘went to church’ this week spent the majority of their week not being the church? i would suggest that, given the evidence, that is a strong possibility.

i can imagine someone standing in front of God one day and hearing the words, ‘You were not the church. Depart from me and continue in the life you have chosen for yourself.’

Sunday [or whenever you have them] meetings or gatherings of Jesus-following people are the pit stops to get you ready for the rest of the week – for the work of being church – salt and light and the fragrance of Christ everywhere you go. Whenever the Sunday meeting or gathering or even group becomes ‘the thing’ then i seriously believe we have missed the point.

so please, feel free to invite us to your Sunday gathering – we do hope to visit a number of church meetings and gatherings to see what God is doing in the Western Cape – but please don’t feel the need to judge me right now for not ‘going to church’ and i will do my best to not judge you because you do.

bechurch

 

[For a post on Unlearning church and whether or not you should be able to ask questions in church, click here] 

 

so there has been a lot of discussion since Don Miller posted his two blogs suggesting that the traditional sunday church vibe is not for him and i responded with my piece titled ‘Why you should stop going to church’ which was not actually at all about encouraging people to stop going to church, but more trying to enlarge our definition of what church is about… you are the church so you don’t go to church – you go to a meeting at a place at a specific time, but church is something you should be every day and everywhere.

and then my buddy Rob Lloyd shared the best and kindest response to Don Miller in this blog post by a guy called Carey Nieuwhof titled ’10 thoughts on exiting the local church – a response to Donald Miller’ and i agreed with a lot of what he said and his spirit and tone was just incredible [why do christians generally seem to struggle to respond well to people who think differently to them?]

but i still do have some thoughts on this topic of my own…

WOULD YOU RATHER…

on sunday morning at the church i work part-time at [yes, that’s right, i am someone who is part of a local congregation and so maybe my thoughts on that not necessarily being the be all and end all carry the tiniest little bit of weight? i’m not someone who has left who is saying everyone should leave!] i played a game with my youth where i gave them two options and made them choose a favouite between the two.

started with easy ones like Dogs vs Cats, Coffee vs Tea, Television vs Music and then progressed to some slightly tricker ones like ‘Justin Bieber vs Miley Cyrus’ [Bieber won hands down!], ‘Death by Unicorn vs Death by T-Rex’ [guys chose T-Rex cos of logic – quick, painless death – girls all chose unicorn cos “ooh magical!”] and then finished off with some real stinkers like ‘Growing an extra finger out of your forehead vs Growing an extra ear on your elbow’ [ear, cos easier to hide!] and ‘You kiss a skunk but nobody knows vs You don’t kiss a skunk but everybody in the world thinks you did’ and ‘You get $1 000 000 but you lose both your thumbs vs You work ten hours a day every day for the rest of your life and only ever make enough money to just get by’ [amazingly everyone except me chose to say goodbye to their thumbs!]

so really became a kind of ‘Would you rather…’ game and while i was thinking about that and the pillow fight lesson that i had planned for them about whether you are in the middle of the action or on the side watching or recording it.

and it made me think of church and this whole discussion slash rant that has come up based on whether or not everyone needs to ‘go to church.’

LOOK LIKE OR BE?

it feels to me like some people [yes, not all of you], in fact many of the people in this conversation would choose [if they had to] people looking like church rather than being church [and yes, the clever ones among you are saying, ‘But Brett, surely it can be both?’]

so people have been loudly saying that people need to go to church on a Sunday. some of those people might concede that the Sunday part is actually not all that important and so allow you to do church on another day. others might concede that it doesn’t need to be in a church building but just needs to be the same group of people meeting together regularly. i imagine we might even be able to get as far as some people conceding that singing isn’t absolutely necessary [although this would be a tougher one because we all know singing = worship] and so might allow us to use bible reading, liturgy, silence, lyric reading and other forms of worship.

my good friend and tag team buddy Sean brought it down to these four things: worship, fellowship, edification, and encounter

none of which have to happen on a Sunday to take place.

none of which have to happen in a specific building to take place.

all of which could happen in a lounge or coffee shop or besides a park bench.

which is always the point i was trying to make [and to some extent Don Miller i think, although he might take it even further than me]

THE POINT

i know of a bunch of churches that meet on a sunday in a specific building at a specific time where a huge percentage of the people there can get caught up so much more in the way things look and happen from a religious or traditional point of view [you can’t worship with that kind of music, you can’t do communion this way, you have to dress like this to go to church etc] than on whether anyone is actually following Jesus or not [so people holding on to unforgiveness, people gossiping profusely, people judging those outside the church etc]

i also know of some people who don’t meet in traditional sunday church who still create space for worship, fellowship, edification, and encounter in their lives although not necessarily in ways that other people would be happy with… and who are living out the kingdom of God so brilliantly and obviously without question.

and i imagine – quite strongly – that if we played the pillow game and put one of those things on either side, that a lot of church leaders and those commenting would actually honestly choose people who pitch up on a Sunday over people living out the kingdom who are not part of a Sunday gathering.

Looking like church vs Being Church.

and that for me seems rather sad.

because if i take a moment to try and imagine which of the two scenarios Jesus would be more happy with, i don’t feel like there is a question at all. 

i also am reminded of His response to the Pharisees and Sadducees who were the ones who looked like church [but hardly acted like it] of His day [He had some really harsh words for some of them!]

SUMMING IT UP

# i am saying that for a lot of people regular Sunday church works and that is great and they should continue and always be examining their hearts and the way the church does things to make sure that they are aligned with Jesus way.

# i am saying that i think there is a bigger definition of what church is which comes out of the idea and understanding and description of church as either the bride or the body of Christ, both of which are more unified sounding than most of what we see today – that the people of God collectively are ‘The Church’ and that we must always seek for ways to bring us closer together rather than trying to find things that bring us apart.

# i am saying that i think Sean’s four pillars of church are very helpful to keep in mind and pursue – worship, fellowship, edification, and encounter – but that they will not always look exactly the same depending on who is involved and the context of the meeting.

# i am saying that any decision made about how effective church is or isn’t based on how it feels like it is being effective or working FOR ME is unhelpful and unhealthy and likely to be fraught with danger and brokenness – there always needs to be a measure of serving others, or connecting with people that don’t only look like, sound like or think like you so that your faith can be grown and challenged. 

# i am suggesting that for many people the idea of a certain place on a certain day at a certain time short-circuits their brains and has them thinking that church doesn’t need to be happening any other time, place or day when we have been called to be salt and light and the fragrance of Christ among those who are perishing, all of which require us to be a little bit closer to darkness and stench and badness of taste.

# i am suggesting that being church far outweighs looking like church and if i ever had to choose between the two [and maybe i don’t] then i will choose being church every day of the week. 

[For another post on church and the ridiculous notion of ‘Going to church’, click here]

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