Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tool Shed

It is that time of year to dust off your Sunday best, wake up a little earlier, and go to church for maybe the second time of the year (the first being Easter). You go to hear Christmas carols, watch a performance, or to satisfy your parents that you're home visiting. You wish people Marry Christmas and probably have your house decorated with a tree up. You may even be done shopping using the guise of Santa. Why do you go? What do you hope to get from it?

That may sound cynical, but in a country where roughly 80% of Americans call themselves Christians "only 3 out of 10 twentysomethings (31%) attend church in a typical week, compared to 4 out of 10 of those in their 30s (42%) and nearly half of all adults age 40 and older (49%)." (from a 2003 Barna survey) A more frightening way of looking at it is that Barna considers those who only attend church at "Christmas or Easter, or for special events such as a wedding or a funeral" unchurched. This number of adults is a striking 34%. (from a 2004 survey)

So I don't buy the label "Christian". Which makes it hard to define "church" in a traditional way. We often define our religion based on how we were raised, and not necessarily our personal doctrine. In fact, doctrine is often secondary as we become a culture where "church shopping" is becoming more and more prevalent. So what is your church and why there? Is it the people you meet (look at how homogeneous your congregation likely is- income level, race, age)? Is it the worship (how relevant are you)? Is it the dynamic preaching (aren't Jesus' words the "same yesterday and today and tomorrow")? Is it the parachurch ministries/activities (are you salt and light)?

But it is usually one of the above that motivates us to attend the church that we do. It should be all the above. But we need to check our expectations at the door. Perhaps you've heard the cliche "church isn't about what you get out of it but what you give to it." Instead of doctrine, theology, or polity; worship, relevance, or relatability; church is not what it looks like or what it does, but what we do as Christians in its name. For me, church is not a place of worship, it is a tool shed. Full of different tools to suit our different talents for us to use to the glory of God.

It's too easy to rely on church leaders and think only of what we get out of church. But the Bible does not call us to just show up every weekend (or when it's convenient). Instead we are called to use the talents we've been given to grow Christ's Church. "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his[b]faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully." (Romans 12:4-8) and "It was [Jesus] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." (Ephesians 4:11-13)

Note the ends and the means. God gives us talents and Christ appoints us to roles so that the Church may be united and mature. The goal is not church attendance, spirit-filled worship, or dynamic leadership. It is attaining the fullness of Christ.

You can read a diversity of definitions of church through this week's blog carnival. To each who post, they are using the tools they get through their church to use the internet to bring unity to the Church. Let this motivate you to rummage through the shed and find the tool that fits you.


Glynn said...

To be loved is to love, to love is to serve, to serve is to love, to love is to be loved. Thanks for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

"The goal is not church attendance, spirit-filled worship, or dynamic leadership. It is attaining the fullness of Christ."

Very true words! Thank you.

Anonymous said...

it is hard to define the undefineable just as it is hard to love the unloveable. but, with God...