Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Out on a Limb

I've been chewing a lot on "The Christian Church" and "Church Membership" lately.  I'm not convinced that joining a local church is mandatory.

The Church is believers world wide.  At some point the meaning of the word church was shifted and used to name the building that Christians-( the church) meet in.   I'm gonna go out on a limb and suggest that that was a distortion of what God wanted the church( Christians) to be.

For most of this article,  Christians and the church will be used synonymously.

One method of looking today's "church membership" is this.  Take away the modern organizational structure of the "social club" mentality.  The mentality where there is a lead pastor, a pastor of music, a pastor of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts,  and remove all of the totem pole, hierarchy, chosen ones to lead mentality and reduce it to a world wide group of people who share a common interest.

Now what do we have?  We have reduced all of the church ( Christians) to the same level playing field.  Now what is a pastor supposed to do?  Well,  the pastor can still preach,  go preach: at the park, by the river,  on the hillside.  If you are preaching truth, people will come.  No need for a big sound system, power point display, cool haircut, wanna look like the guy from Nooma.  Just preach, expecting nothing in return,  trusting God to work.  ( consider John the Baptist, eating locust and honey,  he definitely didn't fit in).

What does the elder do?  Well, he/she still is an elder, older than other Christians and he is still required to take them under his wing and guide them.

The Deacon: is still a servant and helps people.

So we have a group of people with common interests.  Some leaders, lots of followers, some with skills, others with other skills,  each created differently, each given a gift ( gift=skills,  something one has a knack for or is really good at).

Let's use mountain biking as a case study.  We have a world wide group of people with the same common interest.  An interest worth fighting  for, worth celebrating, worth heated debate, ie trail access, trail design etc.  And this group is divided up into clubs,  sometimes several clubs in each town.  And the club has a leader, has elders, deacons and other people with other skills.  So, the club comes together periocially and meets together and decides what needs to be done to promote/preserve  mtn biking in each specific area.  My local club, Pisgah Area Sorba meets every other month, to discuss these things.  ( the board meets too, I'm not sure how often).

Once it is decided, how the club can benefit the majority of the community, dates are set, to go out into the community and serve:  Stage Race, Save the Trails Challenge, trail work days,  meeting with the US Forest Service ( ie god,  sorry , couldn't resist).  The club meeting happens once every two months,  and then all this outside of the building, service oriented, thankless, digging in the dirt, standing in the snow servanthood ops happen daily.

The board also does not get paid.  They volunteer.  The organization (IMBA) is supported by the followers, because they feel that the cause is worthy of the expendature.

Let's compare that model to modern church.

There is a group of leader types who come together and want to make a difference in the world.  So they set a meeting time, ( usually Sunday mornings, which by the way is a great time to sleep in and then enjoy the day recouping in the outdoors) they invite people to come, the people come in, some chit chat, some small talk, but no time to really share common interest, because there is just not the time in this type of format.  Then everybody sings songs, has the mandatory shake your neighbors hand and tell them you love them,and sit for another 30 minutes to an hour listening to someone preach, while daydreaming about food.  Oh yeah,  and you are prompted to give your tithe ( which is also not a New Testament concept,  oops another can of worms).

Where was I?
So the people come into the same room, chat, listen, chat, go get some lunch.  And they call this unity.

What if,  hang onto your seats.  What if,  some leader types got together, figured out a way to make a difference in this community, decided on events ( for instance, helping maintain local public parks) and met there, got dirty serving the people.  And then, people start to talk,  they start to bond, they start to look each other in the eye, help each other reach a common goal.  Then the project is through for the day and everybody is hungry,  so they go get tacos and beer.  And the conversation continues, and the brainstorming on what project to do next.  After a while, the group grows.  It grows because good things are happeneing, and anyone can join in.  And not just Christians, but anyone is invited without stipulation or judgement. And then the group splits, and the effort  is able to cover more areas of the city,  serving.   With no emphasis on membership, on attending every time the doors are open.   Just showing up when and where you can, and giving a little bit.

And on top of that, the leader types don't get paid.  They work a job like everybody else.  That way they don't have to convince the people that they need to "Give back to God".  They don't need to worry about bringing the people in to support them.  They have a job and they are serving,  because it is something they want to do,  with no return expected.

Hmm,  a lot more appealing than sitting through another "church service".


Chris said...

Stephen, as usual, spot on. What is missing is a bit of historical perspective -- once upon a time, the Church *was* society. And so it got political. You did not exist until you were baptized, which was the time at which you entered into society's rolls (and could be taxed ... by the Church-cum-government).

A lot of the structure of organizations we have today is, unfortunately, influenced by people's selfish nature. The Church is by no means exempt.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you.

Have you read the book Mere Churchianity? Speaks to the same. I'm encountering so many Christians who are not a part of organized "church."