I have these friends. Actually, several of them. They love Jesus, and want to serve him. They are serious about their faith, but they are also fun, and funny, and very loving. They are among the most generous people I know. They lead transformed lives, full of joy. I am very glad I know them, for they provide for me great evidence that Christ is alive and well, and changing lives on a daily basis. These are good people.
But these friends also think the church is, well, dumb, not worthy of their time or money. They think the church is largely irrelevant. Its a mess, a 50 car pile up. Forget it. So, they do their own thing on Sunday; some are in home churches, some not. Some just go hang with their Christian friends. Some have been church shopping, for years.
I think this is just plain wrong. And sad. Really. And it misses the point, the point that I think Jesus was talking about when he spoke of the abundant life, and the stuff that guy who wrote Hebrews mentioned about meeting together. Please remember, not a Bible scholar here.
Tod Bolsinger has taken up this issue over the past several days, and you need to read his thoughts in response to the most recent book of George Barna. If I understand Tod right, Mr. Barna, who I have followed and admired for many years, has given up on the church completely, and is now advocating for a form of "Individu-Christianity", or just being faithful to Jesus and doing your own thing. This sounds very much like some of my friends. And it sounds very much like the decline of our culture in general - and follows from the concepts described in Bowling Alone.
So, it seems to me that if you and your friends form your own "Individu-Church", or "Church of What We Think Is Cool" here is what you typically get: anywhere from a gaggle to a gang of people who are, in varying forms, a lot like you. Same age groupings, same income class, same ages of kids, same job strata. Same. Similar. Neat and clean. No mess. Read: boring.
And if you join a more traditional organized church, of the type Barna seems to think is a goner, you get different things. You get old people, senior citizens, grey hairs. You get some odd people, who don't normally fit in, and other needy folks who find much solace in a place where Jesus is very important. You find some unlovely people, and some unshapely people. You find people who might not be welcome in other places. You also get some rather silly people, that really get a charge out of being in committee meetings to discuss the color of flowers for the Spring Social event. These are the kinds of meetings that make you think about oral surgery as a viable option, if that would get you out of going to the committee meeting.
But you get other things. You get a glimpse of the Kingdom of God. All shapes, sizes, colors, kinds, and types. Its like Creation. Big, and wild, and amazing, wonderful and messy and in your face. You get to meet some of the most interesting, loving, maddening, remarkable people you will ever spend time with. This is what you get when you say yes to organized church. As for me, I like this option far better.
By the way, I don't have to be right. These are just my ideas. What are yours?
And to top it all off, what are we church people going to do on Super Bowl Sunday?