Recently, I have been reconsidering church and what church is or should be.I have read several things that indicate many today see the church as irrelevant to their lives. One quote that really struck me was that many were not opposed to Christianity but just the organized church. The message of the Gospel is timeless and as relevant today as it was in the 1st century. Maybe it is our concept of church or the way we do church that is irrelevant. I have been analyzing my own experiences and thoughts about church.

When I was younger, I had this concept that the church was that big complex of brick buildings just off I-20. I can even remember my dad trying to explain to me that church is not really the building but the congregation that meets in the building. Well, I just did not get it. It seems that there is a tendency to equate churches with the buildings.

Some go to church on Sundays and maybe even Wednesday’s but then they leave having fulfilled a weekly obligation. Church ends at the edge of the parking lot and it is back to business as usual. They are able to compartmentalize their lives – acting one way on Sunday’s and when they are around other Christians; and quite differently when they are not around other Christians.To be honest I have tried this approach at times in my life. I found it exhausting to remember which “role” I was supposed to be playing and in the end, I was quite disgusted with myself.Somewhere along the way, I reached the conclusion that a faith that does not affect my daily life was useless. Does this mean I have got everything figured out? No way!

For others church is about having bigger and nicer buildings. They work hard to maintain the property and support it monetarily.I am not opposed to churches having buildings; it is very helpful to have a permanent place to meet.We should take care of the buildings. However, the buildings should never be our primary focus. What good is a beautiful cathedral without people?

There seems to an attitude of consumerism. Some select a church based on the programs it offers. Ok, to be honest, I have done that too.I wanted to attend a church with a large singles program that would meet my needs, in the end I think my priorities were messed up.I was more concerned about my social needs than growing spiritually. Personally, I have grown the most spiritually when I was focused on serving God and others.I still struggle with this myopic view that somehow church should meet my needs. After all church certainly worship should never be about me.

I think I have rambled enough for now and I will close with a few questions that are swirling through my head. What needs to change for church to be or stay relevant? What would a biblical model for doing church look like? What adjustments do I need to make personally? What things are non-negotiable essentials that cannot change and what things are personal or cultural? How has my culture impacted my concept of church?

17 thoughts on “Thoughts on Church

  1. Good food for thought. I, too, have struggled with what the face of church looks like today. Clearly, the Biblical model would come from Acts, Chapter 2. Unfortunately, all too often American churches have become “user friendly”, or as my church likes to put it, “seeker friendly”. What drew people to Jesus? It wasn’t the way he was dressed or the fact that he was “cool” to be around. He just was. He met people on a daily basis and changed their lives. For me, because I am so involved in my church and the involvement of it takes up so much time, church has often been a deterrent to my spiritual growth. Sadly, I must admit that on many Sundays, being at church has been a complete waste of my time.


  2. I see the church at large grappling with most of the same things you’ve just articulated (very well, I might add). The interesting thing to me is that faith is a process and that people–even people in Christian leadership–are all at different places…loving God and trying to love people in the best way they know how.

    I think the central stumbling block centers around control. It seems to me that the more we let go of the way we think things “should” be (and our frail effort to make it so) and allow God to draw us into what He is already doing in the moment by moment all around us (like the way we interact with waiters, bus drivers, our family) the better things seem to go.

    I wonder what would happen if a church let go of its building program and spent two years focusing on loving (patient, kind, never boastful…yada, yada) the people we encounter in the moments. Would that have the power to change the world?


  3. I am not a Christian, but I did grow up in the Christian faith. What always struck me as wrong about “church” was the high school mentality. They (program directors) would exclude people from their programs if they didn’t like them. (!) They would harass those that asked questions that were uncomfortable as un-believers instead of trying to help those people understand. It seems as if the whole service was more about how much money people were giving instead of anything else.

    However, I have seen a trend in my adult years even though I haven’t been to church in a very long time…it seems as if many churches have forgone helping those less fortunate. When I was a kid all our old clothes and toys and the like went to church for those who needed such things. They weren’t sold to make money, even if they were yard sale prices,….they were GIVEN to the needy. It seems that many churches don’t bother with this anymore.They either offer these items “at discount” or don’t bother at all. That really puts a bade taste in my mouth.

    I it guess it just seems to me that they have become less “Christ-like” and more materialistic….I know of a preacher who burned the house he was renting down bc he couldn’t purchase it for a fifth of the asking price…then asked for money to replace his belongings…even though they were all in storage at the time of the fire.

    Again, I am not Christian, but from what I remember of my Bible Studies this is definitely not the way Jesus would want anyone to act. I guess the “cure” would be to overhaul the entire religious community…much like what some propose should happen to the government.

    When religious institutions realize that it is THEY that are driving people away, not someone else tempting them away…then they will see more people in the pews.

    As a side note…as far as choosing church for social needs…for many people that is all the social interaction they get is Church. I went to school with a many of kids who weren’t allowed to socialize with anyone outside of church. While I see your point that it should be about God…don’t beat yourself up over it either. Like Truvey said in Steel Magnolias…”God don’t care what church you go to, as long as you show up.”


  4. Oh. forgot to point out that the reason people only go to church and then don’t bother anymore is that is the example that they are setting for their parishioners… That kinda goes in with what I was saying how they don’t bother to take donations of anything to help anyone anymore…they don’t set the example that being a Good Christian is more than just showing up.


  5. Kim,

    You make several good points. I don’t really know in our culture if we really have a clue what a NT church would look like nor would we be comfortable with that model.


    You pose another question for me to ponder. Church building programs can be devise. I have seen one church so determined to build another building that real ministry was ignored.


    Yes, I too have encountered the high school mentality and those that don’t want to deal with difficult questions. I was often the one asking the difficult questions. When I am teaching I may not always address difficult questions at that time but will acknowledge them and be open to future discussions.

    Also, there are churches that don’t want to help those in need. Fortunately, my church is not one of those. Personally, I don’t do garage sales. I would rather give things to the church. There are many like me who prefer to help other but in annoymous ways. I give for personal reward. I give because it the right thing to do, the Biblical thing to do, being responsible, because I care or because I have been in need in the past and the list could go on. One reason some churches run low cost “stores” is because some people take advantage of the willingness of churches to help.

    Changing religious institutions is more likely to happen by changing the thoughts of individual members.

    The social reasons I was referring to wasn’t same as a high school student only allowed to socialize with church people. I was an adult.


  6. I understand why they run the stores…but I still don’t think it is right. It isn’t difficult to find out if someone is really in need.

    I too would rather give to a church for the reasons you listed. However where I live now there aren’t ANY churches I have found that take donations! But, with that said a cousin’s church is starting up an emergency management team and they are going to bring up taking some donations of things like clothing to be ready for when something does happen. I told them to make sure to let me know as I would gladly clean out my closets…

    I also understand the social reasoning…but my point was that even in families the Church is the only life they have. They live and breathe church, only have dinner or hang out with church members, never have any friends outside the church…even for adults. When I was little that was our life. Of course they are going to offer programs such as singles things for the fact that is what many people do…live for the church and show up every time the doors are open. Church, when I went, was a community, not just a place of worship.


  7. Sandy,

    I worked in a mission and one thing we saw were people trying to take advantage of the situation. Also, some require if possible a small payment because purchasing something rather than taking a handout does help self-esteem.

    My dad was a minster so I understand about the church being a community. Actually, I’m working on something about the church being a community.

    After college I attended a very large church with a large singles program. One thing I noticed in that church and similar churches that for some there is more of a focus on meeting/dating others and having a good time. It is kind of like an extension of a youth group.


  8. I like how you say that the church is not the building, but the congregation. I remember i heard Paul Washer say once, “You say why plant a church in Georgia, there’s lots of churches in Georgia. No there’s a lot of red-brick buildings with the word Ichabob outside.” The church isn’t even all the people who go to church, but the true church of God are the believers. The Church is the body of Christ and the body of Christ is all believers. People say the bride of Christ is messed up or just as bad as the world, or that the Bride needs revival or that she’s not right. The Bride of Christ is beautiful and amazing. The Church is humble and striving to Godliness and loving God, but the problem is that what most people call the church isn’t the church. It’s the building, or the people who just go to the building to fulfill their weekly obligations and smooth over their religious conscience. A church’s success isn’t measure in attendance, wealth, or even size, but by how close they are to God and how much they love Him. That’s my two-cents on this I guess. Just my thoughts.


  9. Dee,
    I tend to agree with Kim. If we look at Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 14 we see at least two features that are almost foreign to most modern worship services: Spirit-empowered participation and contributions by potentially anyone present; and a strong sense of community.


  10. Your thinking brings to mind two quick descriptions of our modern church I enjoy. My former pastor used to describe the compartmentalization-phenomenon you describe as those of us whose faith is “a little habit we’ve acquired.” And Dallas Willard hits your consumer-driven idea by calling our modern church “Consumer Christianity.”


  11. Barry,

    I’m writing something now about community.

    Spirit-empowered participation is something that I think many don’t understand or are afraid of.

    Mr. Sheehy,

    Consumer Christianity is a good description.


  12. Dee:

    I hope you won’t mind my checking out your site. Name Removed banned me before I could point out that I was not lying, and so I worry that you have (logically) assumed that I was. That’s not really what I want to talk about here, though; I find you interesting and very readable, and I think this post is an excellent one.

    One of the reasons I have some questions about “mainstream Christianity” is the modern church’s habit of forgetting the widows and orphans, and by extension, the needy in our communities. My home church, in a small town called Red Oak, has a shut-in/elderly breakfast ministry that I think is a great example of the community-oriented approach missing in a lot of churches today. I like Barry’s point, too, that participation in churches should be open to basically any member of the congregation, but we get so used to the strict order of service that interruptions are nuisances rather than opportunities to try something new.

    Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I respect your opinions, and I am incredibly grateful that you articulate your disagreements in a less…confrontational way than has been the case. I certainly hope you’ll take a moment to hear my side of the story, as you seem to be an interesting believer and I’d hate to lose an opportunity to get to know you.

    — Sara


  13. Sara,

    Think you for stopping by. I have removed the person’s name because I don’t want this to become a slam session. I did not think you lied. Just that you had read something and came to a different conclusion. As far as this matter goes it happens.

    Not all churches forget the widows and orphans some do but not all. Actually, I believe that our participation in ministry through one’s local church is mandatory and not optional. Church is not a spectators sport.

    I’ll check out your blog.


  14. Good Article Dee. I can see by your responses to these other bloggers that you really see the problems with the current Christian churches. I underestimated you. I apologize. But the fact remains that they are not really helping people with mental illness. I guess this is the last thing on their agenda. See Ya.


What's on your mind?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s