Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Overemphasizing "church"

Alan Knox is doing a series examining how the meeting of the church is described in the book of Acts and what we can glean from those passages to help us to understand how we should view the church today. I think it is a vital question because typically the accounts in Acts are brushed off as “descriptive” rather than “normative” (That could have something to do with the implications of seeing Acts as more normative than merely descriptive. All things in common, what kind of crazy talk is that?!) I would reject the notion that Acts is merely a nice narrative with essentially no impact on how we meet as the church now. Where else would we look to see how the church should behave and gather than in the earliest days when the apostles were directly involved in the leadership? I don’t think we have improved on the church gathering in the last two thousand years, in fact I would argue (and have) that things have gotten further and further from the Biblical model, the Reformation notwithstanding. His latest post addresses the church gathering in Acts 2:1. Here is an excerpt:

We can also see from this short passage that “gathering” is not the goal of the church. Yes, believers have been gathered out of the world, and yes, we should gather together in order to build one another up toward maturity. However, we must recognize that our calling exists outside of our meeting.

When the Holy Spirit indwelled the 120, they immediately began proclaiming the good news to those who did not know it. I think the Holy Spirit continues to work in both directions today: both drawing us to gather together, and sending us out to those who have not heard the good news.

I think that is a great point. I might go a step further and suggest that we really overemphasize the Sunday morning meeting. The “big picture” purpose of the church is not that gathering. I think we overemphasize the Sunday morning meeting in lieu of genuine community and fellowship among believers. In place of community, we have instead substituted a concentrated couple of hours where we try to cram as much “church” as possible into the schedule. There is no time for casual relationships or getting to know one another because we have to stay on schedule because people are only going to stick around until noon. That is true in most expressions of the church, from liturgical “high church” gatherings to Baptist church meetings to Plymouth Brethren assemblies, even perhaps in “house church” meetings. Our focus is on the form and manner of the Sunday meeting. How should we meet on Sunday? How often? Where, in a "church" or in a home? How often should we partake of the supper? What sort of music? What is our statement of faith, our vision statement? What are our distinctives that separate us from "other churches"?

We worry so much about that Sunday morning meeting that we sorta forget the rest of the week. Perhaps we should actually be spending more time worrying about the rest of the week than we do about the Sunday morning meeting. Crazy talk, I know. It just seems that we ought to be emphasizing the community of believers and our witness to the world a lot more than the form and function of the once a week meeting. It is impossible to jam a week’s worth of community into two hours but we keep on trying anyway.

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