Tuesday, July 15, 2008

On Church and the Gathering of Believers

I have been thinking a lot lately on the subject of "church". What should it be? As we all probably agree, the church is the body of believers; we, followers of Christ, make up the church. But, why then, do we say "we're going to church," on Sunday morning? I personally have decided to begin calling it something besides church. I want my kids to grow up understanding that we go to gather with believers but WE are the church. I tell Pear as we leave the house, on Sunday morning or evening, we're going to go see friends or we're going to fellowship or we're going to gather with Christians.

Is "church" meant for believers or unbelievers? Let me restate this, is the gathering of the followers of Christ meant for believers or unbelievers? I believe that the gathering of believers is meant for believers.

Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.

Acts 2:42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Romans 1:11-12 For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other's faith, both yours and mine.

1 Thessalonians 5:11-22 Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.

The gathering is meant for spurring one another on in faith. It is meant for eating together, building community and encouraging one another. It is meant to be a place where we can break bread and share in communion in remembrance of Him. I am not saying that if someone comes to the gathering that does not know Christ we send them out and say find Christ before you come to our gathering. But, I am saying that we as Christians should be reaching out to the lost by inviting them into our homes; eating, playing games, going on walks and doing things that EVERYONE in the world does, is the way to reach unbelievers. In order to do this you must first make friends. Talk with co-workers, say "hello" to the person standing next to you in the grocery store, get involved with different people that share a common interest. We can't simply go to "church" and attend youth church and have our bible study. In order to be Christ to the world, we must take part in the world.

Corporate church is something I have titled a church that has a too much staff, a big building with a matching mortgage and/or leadership that thinks like a business owner. Why does a church need a secretary? Why does a church need a big building? Why can't we meet in areas such as a school or a building that isn't normally used on Sundays? Can the body of believers pitch in and take turns providing bread and juice for communion? Can the body of believers pitch in to set up tables and chairs? Does a church really even need a full time paid pastor? Why couldn't the men and elders of a community of believers take turns sharing their faith and scriptures. Would people with the gift of teaching and preaching naturally step up to the plate? If the gathering is doing what I believe it is intended to do, a lot of "corporate church" jobs would not be needed. If we were truly building community and friendships with one another then couldn't we, the body, answer questions people may have otherwise called the church office for? Couldn't we, faithful friends pray for one another, lay hands on the sick and encourage those in need. I do believe that everyone has their own gift(s) given by God and that these are powerful. I believe that there are people that have been granted the gift of preaching, teaching, healing, prophesying, etc. Maybe there are many men with the gift of preaching that do need to be supported (with money, food, housing,) by the believers. Has the modern church taken this too far? Is pastoring supposed to be a career path that one chooses to got to college, get a degree and therefore they are qualified?

1 Corinthians 12:27-31 27Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues[d]? Do all interpret? 31But eagerly desire[e] the greater gifts.

Ephesians 4 7-13 7But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8This is why it[a] says:
"When he ascended on high,
he led captives in his train
and gave gifts to men."[b] 9(What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions[c]? 10He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until 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.

I believe both of these scriptures are very true but are we often times missing the boat? Are we using these gifts in the ways intended? Because one is called to be a pastor, does this mean that he is to work full time at a church and get paid a full time wage? Or does this mean that his gifting is preaching and he is to use this gift as God guides him. We are all in full time ministry, we simply have different gifts. Because I am called to serve the community, does that mean that "the church" should pay my wage to serve the community? Or maybe I have the gift of prophecy, does this mean that the church should pay per prophetic word given? I may be too legalistic about this, and I may be completely wrong. I am simply trying to figure out what is right. Is the role of a pastor in a church too large? Have we, the body of believers slacked off a little and stopped doing our jobs and therefore given the responsibility to pray for, counsel, prophecy, teach, etc. all to the pastor of a church? What was the role intended to be?

On the subject of children's care and nurseries...why? If the gathering was meant to be encouraging one another, breaking bread and fellowship, why do we need child care? Yes, we may need to train our children a little better, and yes some people may need to loosen their wigs a little but as a mother of a baby who is not the "angel baby" I don't see why the childcare needs to be provided. I do think that mothers of young children need breaks and I hope that they are blessed with grandparents and people in their lives that offer those breaks but I do not agree that the gathering is the time for a babysitter. It seems churches are constantly in need of servants to watch children during service and that indicates to me that either people aren't sharing the burden and are taking a little more than giving which to me indicates that it may not be a great plan. If all parents who desire the childcare want to take turns to watch the children, great! Maybe it does help them be encouraged but if the burden is not shared than it's purpose is being defeated because a servant becomes worn out by watching kids too many Sundays out of the month. I personally strongly feel that if God blesses me with a child, it is my responsibility to train this child in the ways of the Lord. To honor, respect and obey both God and myself as a mother. I also personally feel that until my child is trained to honor, respect and obey God, myself and those around him or her, she is to remain with me during outings and gatherings so that I can teach and train him or her. Each child is different, some may be trained earlier than others but I know that me 17 month old is not trained well enough yet. Sunday school should not be the primary place that our children are learning about Christ. The home is where our children need to be trained and taught the scripture. I am not saying that they can't be encouraged or taught anywhere else but if we use sunday school as our source than we are missing the boat.

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go,Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

What do you think? This is an open discussion. This is what we're supposed to do as Christians right? We're supposed to question our faith and figure out what we believe and why? Are my thoughts different than what the scripture says?


KAMILLE said...

I think you're asking great questions and I can see that you're wrestling with Scripture in both the exegetical and hermeneutical.

I think the only thing I can honestly give my input in is the nursery & children's ministry arena. I agree that Sunday School should never serve as the primary source of feeding a child spiritually, but I don't think it's necessary to cut out Sunday School completely. I think it provides a great supplement to what you're giving to them as parents. I could see how Christian parents who homeschool would have differing views on children's ministry to Christian parents who public educate their children.

For me, I have chosen to use the nursery for Veronica b/c she's so active and I think it's unfair of me to require her to sit still and constantly telling her to quiet down at her stage of development. I will occasionally have her with us during the music end of worship, in order for her to experience and learn from watching adults.

I have a recommendation of an author who talks about a lot of these ideas, Marva Dawn. She's written about dumbing down worship and "Is It a Lost Cause?"


Chase said...

Good discussion, Paige. I have been realizing that it is actually very healthy to study scripture and use it to challenge traditional views/norms. Not for the sake of being a rebel, simply for the sake of allowing God to speak directly through His word rather than based on someone else's interpretation. This lines up with how you were talking about the network of believers (the church) and the fact that this "church" is meant for believers - I feel it is not so much of a tool for reaching the lost as it is a place for Christians to discuss the word of God and sharpen each other so that we can represent God in the world.

You bring up many good points. I believe the Christian body should support servants of God (each other) but the question I've asked is this - do we support individuals because they choose a ministry as their career or because their career is overtaken by serving God?

2 Corinthians 9 is a great chapter on giving and supporting: "10Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God."

Paul talks a lot about our generosity as Christians supporting the Christian community so that God's work can be done. He also clarifies that this act of giving is not a command, only a pattern of the generosity and kindness that Christians should (and did in the example Paul used) show.

Well, I'll talk to you later!

Emily P. said...

Amen Sister! This is a subject that I have thought long and hard about for the last year or so. I whole heartedly agree with you and appreciate you sharing your thoughts. It has inspired me to do even more researching in scripture about it. It's refreshing to know that other people think outside of the "corporate church" box. Thanks for the awesome insight!