Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Band of Brothers and Sisters

I was chatting with a buddy of mine on the phone tonight while at the grocery store. We talked about the way that sometimes Christians fill up their schedules with things to do - many times church events - and that we don't allow ourselves to just "be" our faith, that is, to spend time doing what could possibly be the more important and perhaps even the more effective thing - building relationships.

I'll admit that I have a tendency to get busy on purpose - even when I have free time, it becomes busy time. Back in the day, I used to fill my calendar with the weekly routine of church culture. There was sunday school, sunday morning service, sunday evening service, mid-week Bible study, worship team practice, and of course the mens' saturday breakfast once every month. If there was a singles group, the meetings were promptly placed on my calendar. The church concert had to be scheduled in. The youth were having a car wash fundraiser so I had to support that. Let's not forget to come early to help set up chairs and sound equipment for service on sunday. And of course, there were the prayer meetings. In all these things, I thought I was a good Christian because I was "involved" in church.

But I've realized over the past four years or so that being involved in church didn't give me much time to be involved in people's lives . . . .

The way I was, I didn't know very many people who were not Christian. I knew lots of church people, but not very many real people (if you know what i mean). Now I'm hungry for relationships. But what if building relationships was "church"? I mean, what if the building of relationships was me simply being the "church" in this world? I think that within church culture, we have such a tendency to program-a-tize our faith. We have to put some kind of structure so that it can be easy to define and identify whether or not we are "doing" church. But what if living it was more important than doing it?

Some people may take a look at my calendar and assess that I "go" to two (maybe three) churches. Does this make me an uncommitted person? Does this make me a "church-hopper"? I don't think so. I see it as me being a part of one church - God's Church - and that I am simply connecting with His people in various pockets. While I do acknowledge some value in the traditional and institutional model/structure of "church" (see also "Death of a church and Life in the Hot Zone" and "Jumping The Walls"), I also think that less structured associations of believers who are relationally connected is also a valid expression of "church". I think that we can be a group of like-minded (perhaps not even that in some areas) people who are committed to each other but not necessarily committed to the structure that brings us together. I think that our commitment to each other makes us more of a "church" than does our commitment to the "church" organization as a member.

What if we were more focussed on being the Church than on whether or not our activities allowed us to be called a "church"? What if we were so committed to each other in our relationships that we really got to know each other? What if we began to care for, love, and trust one another? What if we understood each other and knew that we could count on each other to call our "crap" on the carpet - keeping each other accountable? What if we were not so co-dependent of our relationships with each other and totally felt comfortable and even encouraged new people to be a part of our little band of brothers and sisters? What if we were less committed to doing the routine of "church" and more committed to routinely being the "church" with each other? What if instead of saying that we'll have bible study every friday night, we committed to doing something every friday night - together? Let's go to the bar. Let's go to the park. Let's go down to the beach and baptize one of us. Let's hang out in the living room reading Ephesians. Let's make dinner for one of our grand parents. Let's bring dinner to the neighbors who just had a baby. What if we did all these things and decided to go to a sunday morning service too? Or maybe we didn't. What if we didn't program-a-tize the "how-to's" and "to-do's" of church and instead simply committed to regularly and intentionally being the church together?

I know it seems "out-of-the-box" for some people. But normal friendships aren't program-a-tized. If we're going to be the Church with each other and in our community of people who don't yet know Jesus, instead of dragging them to a church building early on a sunday morning or on a friday night to sit in a chair for 45 minutes to listen to some person they don't even know talk at them, then let's be a Church of normal relationships. The other is just plain weird.


badsushichef said...

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Eric said...

Hehe...you've got some spice don't ya badsushichef? Welcome to my blog!

Anonymous said...

Good points, Eric. It drives me nuts when people I know make a big to-do about how much time they spend at church, but fail to do the things that Christ would have us do for others.

Hope you're having a good week!! :)

Anonymous said...

I've known for a long time that the church is not a building. Unfortunately, I exchanged that concept for a equally faulty notion that the church is a series of programs. But that premise gets me to the following conclusion: If I stripped away all the programs, all the Sunday events, all the bulletins, all the music, all the (fill-in-the-blank), then the church ceases to exist.

I don't want to be part of a church that fails to have an identity because we discontinue this ministry or that outreach. I don't want to be part of a church that spends more time summarizing itself on a calendar than living out its living, organic and sometimes raw mission.

I want to belong to a community that stretches and pulls and anticipates and comforts and laughs and runs and rests and cries and guards and quite simply IS. It is present; it has a reality; but it cannot be stacked and stored into tidy programs. I want to belong to an organism that bands together and says, "We're going to make it; we're going to stick by each other; we're going to see how ugly our junk really is when it goes on display and we are going to decide to love each other anyway."

Put me in that band of brothers and sisters; I'm practicing with my instrument now.