Monday, October 02, 2006

Church service

I had a pretty interesting email discussion with a friend of mine, with whom I just started getting reacquainted. It was pretty interesting to discover that – although we hadn’t talked in about six years –stories about our lives weren’t all that dissimilar. We’re both at the point where we’re growing pretty dissatisfied with organized religion. An excerpt from one of the friend’s emails tells an interesting story:

"I hope you don’t think that I’m sacrilegious or anything, but lately my idea of going to ‘church’ has been less about going to some building with a steeple and pews and more about having a nice social outing with my friends to talk about life, work, relationships and our faith. Nowadays, I get more satisfaction out of volunteering at homeless shelters, being a Big sister to my 11-year-old ‘sister’, and socializing with my friends than I do for sitting in a church watching a preacher yell, scream, sweat, and ask for money. I guess that I’m starting to believe that our devotion to God is measured more by the relationships we build with others and less on how much time we spend in a building.

From past experiences, I’ve always thought it was funny (in an ironic way) that the people at church are usually the ones who destroy relationships with each other while the people outside of the church are the ones who can sustain relationships the best. Don’t go around disagreeing with somebody in the church. All Hell will break loose. Don’t get pregnant; you’ll be an outcast and a heathen. Don’t
question anything that’s being taught or try to look at God from another angle; you’ll be labeled Public Enemy #1. Didn’t Jesus tell us that the world would know who belongs to Him by how we love others? Maybe there really is something to what Jesus says.”

Hmm…

Good questions.

Maybe I'm becoming more aware of it because my family is scattered all over the country, but – like this person – I really enjoy being around those who I call my friends. I’m not even sure if I fully describe the sense of togetherness and connection I have when I’m around people I love (which explains why I get pissy if I feel excluded. But that’s another story…). Although it’s not a word that is common in most people’s vocabulary, I really enjoy the fellowship I have with others. When I think about “fellowship”, to me it goes deeper than shaking hands with a bunch of people whom you barely know. It’s more than just having people, who would otherwise forget that I’m even around, say “hello” to me and then walk away. Rather, I see fellowship as having a shared connection with people together with whom you have a vested interest and a common affiliation. To me, the most profound and deepest sort of friendship occurs when each person has shared similar experiences and are willing to be apart of one another. With that in mind, I'd like to think that the "Church" (Capital "C") is the same way. I'd like to think that the Church is made up of the type of togetherness that Jesus described when He said to His disciples in John 15:11-15:

"These things I have spoken unto you, that my joy may be in you and [that] your joy may be made full. This is my commandment: that ye love one another even as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if you do the things which I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servent knoweth not what his lord doeth; but I have called you friends for all things that I heard from my father, I have made known unto you."

Friendships were apparently a big deal to Jesus. Just the thought of Him letting His disciples in on everything" indicates that He has placed a high premium on His friends. It only gets more profound to know that He places more value on their lives than He does His own. From there, the Church was established.

Man, that's some pretty deep stuff.

Anyway...

Forgive my long digression. The real point of this post was to tell you about my first Sunday without an "institutional" church home.

I started my day at around 10:30-ish, after my friend called to make sure that I was going to church. Though I told her that I’d make a “game day decision” about seeking a new church, I was really saying “After I get off the phone with you, I'm going back to bed.”

From there, I got up and took a walk. What started off as a lap around my apartment complex quickly turned into a walk that covered a few miles. Maybe it was the Sunday morning quietness that allured me, but I enjoyed every minute of my walk. The weather was perfect. The environment was ideal. I was alone with God and my thoughts and I seemingly had all the time in the world to contemplate and reflect on God’s goodness, and my undeserved favor. I also had a great conversation with God where I was able to get a lot off of my chest. Unlike most people, He sat there and listened to every gripe I had.

From there, I went to my office to get a little work done, went by the University's Rec. Center to shoot some hoops (good to see that my jumpshot is still there), went to lunch with a friend where we shared terrific discussions, spoke to my sister on the phone briefly, and watched some football.

For me, it was the best church I've had in a while. And I didn’t even have to put on a suit…

- ACL

24 "Insiders" spoke their mind. Join in...:

saved_sinner said...

When you reported that you were leaving your church, I’ll admit that I was a little concerned about where your heart and your mind were. But, after sharing the blogosphere with you for the past year, I figured that you’re not the type of person to break “fellowship” with people. It’s great to hear that you’re doing well in the Spirit.

Stay blessed, my friend.

JD said...

Hey Andre, Check it out:

Hebrews 10:25 (New Int Version) "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

Romans 10:14-15: How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"[g]


Andre, I'm sorry that MCMBC did this to you. You must admit, had the Church not been such A-holes, that you'd still be there, just as faithfull as the next man.

Of course I'm an advocate of finding a place to grow in. I can't speak for your friend, but your basing your decsion (I hate that word, I spell it wrong all the time)without having experienced "real" Church. Have you even tried finding a Church home that's suitable for you? *Singing like Pam* Have you earnestly prayed?

Love ya and I'm praying for you man.

Joanne said...

Andre,

Of course you know that I’m one of your biggest fans and your blog has blessed me a thousand times over. But this particular post disturbs me because you seem to be a bit confused on the concept of church. By definition, the church is:

1. A building for public worship through religious service - especially for Christians

2. A community of believers, banded together by a following of Jesus Christ

3. A spiritual body specified by denomination (i.e. Baptist, Methodist or Catholic.)

4. Those who accept and practice a particular religious belief.

It sounds to me that the last definition points out what your friend was talking about when she mentioned the interaction she has with others. But the important question is: Was Jesus ever discussed during those interactions??

From the sounds of it, I'd say that you've mixed the idea of having church with having COMMUNION:

Communion is defined as:

1. An act or display of sharing thoughts or feelings

2.Religious or spiritual fellowship

3. A body of christians who possess and practice similar religious faiths.

I would agree you had fellowship, but what's not to say that this fellowship can't be found in the church? While we're on it, what exactly are you looking for?

I don't think you should measure how much you get out of church by how many people share YOUR philosophy. It should ALWAYS be about having Christ in the middle of it all. Otherwise, it's just becoming a trendy, social clique of friends.

As a Biblical reference, I'd like to call your attention to Psalm 27:4: "One thing I desire of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in His house all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple."

I’m sure that I’m getting some debate started by saying all of this. But, for me and my house, we will serve the Lord [at church].

Andre said...

@ JD: I had to think about this for a second before I responded, but I think that I can address points that both you and Joanne raised. I'll do that in a second.

But, to address one of your points: I wouldn't say that MC did anything to me necessarily. Maybe it provided the impetus I needed to start moving, but I've always thought this way about 'organized' practices. Don't get me wrong: I'm a believer in doing things "in order". But the minute that you and I were able to look at our watches and tell what was coming up next in the service, I knew that organization started to get ridiculous. Throw in an insecure pastor and some pretty mean, rude and impetuous "believers", and you have the source of my frustration. Will it be different at other churches? Maybe. But some attributes of Black Baptist churches are sure to be wherever I go.

@ Joanne (and also @ JD):,

As you probably know by now, I HIGHLY value your input and your insight. So, I will never be offended by anything you say. However, in this instance I think that we’re on different pages as it relates to our definition of church. But, I can say for sure I didn’t get my definitions from Webster’s:

From my interpretation of Scripture; whenever “two or three” (or more) believers are assembled in God’s name, that’s Church (Capital C). So if I invite you over for dinner (I make a mean chicken parmesan if you’re ever interested), that – biblically speaking – could be the Church. I try to be extremely cautious when using the dictionary to define spiritual matters and terms; largely because what winds up in the dictionary usually reflects what THAT culture has come to define. Sometimes those definitions can get pretty mixed, confusing and straight erroneous.

Thanks, however, for at least citing Scripture with your response. You'd be suprised at how often people spew out opinions about God without using His words to support their claim. Your reference to the book of Psalms was pretty good. But, when examining that passage, I think you should take into account the poetic tone of that verse. Otherwise, how do you explain the Psalmist’s desire to LIVE in God's temple while Paul indicates that we ARE God's temple? Context is key here.

Food for thought...

Thanks for your comments as always.

cynthia said...

Hmmm. Good points raised on all sides. You each bring interesting points to the table. Gasp! So hard to choose! :)

JD said...

Dre,

I gotta sorta agree with you on the definitions. "church" in the dictionary may describe the actual building, while we as Christians know that it's the actual "body" of people. I think that a better term to use would be assembly. You're absolutely right: If two or three gather (me, you, and Joanne) IN THE NAME OF JESUS, then we are indeed, a church. However, there is a difference between "being" a church and the "well-being" of a Church. Hence the verse that I left of Romans 10:14-15. While you and I can sit and discuss the goodness of God all day long, AND still fulfill being in church, neither one of us has been called by the Holy Spirit to deliver the "Good (or bad, depending on if the Lord is trying to fix me) news. How "good" are our souls being fed? By our regurgitating our testimonies, it's almost like we're being fed processed, recycled foods. When the Word is sent from a TRUE man of God, it's like organic veggies, MAN!

JD said...

P.S. How DARE you sterotype ALL BLACK CHURCHES! That would be like me saying that all single, Black males who are age 26 and over with degress who have no children are gay.

*Snicker*

Here's another thought: Who said that you had to look for or attend an all Black church?????????

KC said...

Well, if I had to choose a side, I think I’d rather go with genuine loving, sharing, and fellowship over some contrived and manufactured event done in the name of programmed religion any day of the week.
I agree with what Dre said about using the dictionary to define spiritual matters.
Even though the dictionary claims to capture the true extent to what "church" is, doesn’t mean that what’s it REALLY is. Too many people get caught up more in their idea of being “righteous” (i.e. how often they go to church) than they do in living in God (BEING the church).

Like you said Joanne, this will always be an argumentative point. So I say ‘to each his own.’ What works best for one person may not work for other people. All I can really comment on is what ATTRACTS ME and what REPELS ME! I can’t speak for anyone else. That’s God’s job.

Andre said...

@ Cynthia: It's probably best to stay neutral Cyn. *wink*

@ JD: Perhaps I should've said "Baptist churches" and not just Black Baptist churches. I can't tell which one is worse: Singing "A Mi-hi-ighty Fo-or-tress I-is our G--o-o-od" with a pipe organ or singing "Shoop day do wap. Shoop day doop" with a bass, drums, and keyboards.

*Note to readers: That's an inside joke*

But, I get your point J. I'll stop overgeneralizing...

JD said...

*Shudders at the thought of both songs*

thehc said...

Hey Dre,
This is exactly how I feel about my relationship with God. You and your friend have come to the same conclusion that I hit on when I was about your age, that the real church of God is in your heart. It's too bad that so many people look at going into a building on Sunday as the end of their obligation to God. The real test is how you treat your fellow man. It's nice to see we still agree on a lot, even if not on everything. Great post.

KC said...

Joanne,

I'm not trying to pick on you or anything, but I think you need to read JD's comments. His/her thoughths were pretty honest to the way the Bible actually teaches us about 'church' versus 'the body of Christ'. We, as the Church can build a church (just a building) but we put it together and make it useful (or, as JD put it, gives it its "well being"). I think if they called the church a building I could agree since the real church gathers in the building and in society (for example at a football game). Or do we no longer represnt the body of Christ at that point? I think we continue to be in Christ no matter where we go to hang out. But, I could be wrong.

Joanne said...

I don’t seem to recall ever saying that the church was only a building. I believe more along the lines of church being a community of believers.

But I have to think that since Jesus thought enough to go to the temple (or church, whatever you want to call it), we as Christians should do so as well.

JD said...

I'm a "she" :)


I have to agree with you, Joanne. The reason why they are making those statements about a church being a building is because of your first definition in your initial post.

I believe, and please correct me if I'm wrong, that you were simply listing the many definitions of a church. I don't think that you were trying to say that the first definition was the ONLY definition for a church; however, the first definition was the only one that anyone addressed.

Joanne, I believe that you hit the nail on the head when you stated that Jesus always made it a point to go into a temple. I mean, it ANYONE had a connection to the Father, it was Him, yet he still humbled Himself to go to the house of the Lord.

Andre, regardless of what the definition of a church is, I believe that the main thing is that you aren't using your bad experience at one church to totally disregard church as a whole, and some of the bloggers are trying to use scriptures to back up the reason for "assembling"

:)

Andre said...

@ JD: What makes me shudder is the thought of singing the Black version of "Amazing Grace" at a predominately White Church. Yikes!

Great point you raised in your earlier comment (with the organic veggie metaphor), by the way.

@ HC: I still believe that church is about the assembly of the saints. I'm just not so sure that it needs to be limited to going to church on Sunday from 11-12:30. That's all. I wouldn't consider my Sunday experience ("ex-spear-dee-aunce" for all the members at MCMBC. Inside joke) any less significant than spending it at church (small C).

@ KC: Good points. You should listen to JD more often. She can break it down about as well as anybody.

@ Joanne: I see where you're going with your comments. Sure, Jesus went to the temple often. I'll give you that. I'll even raise you the point that I'm NOT AT ALL against assembly at church.

But, looking at it from a historical angle: What about the Church in Rome, Ephesus, Corinth, or Athens? There were no temples in those areas. From the time where the Church was formed up until around 300 AD, believers secretly met in homes and basements, to avoid persecution.

I think somewhere down the road, we got a bit mixed up in my objective with this post. All I wanted to do was provide my definition of the Church, as I interpret it from the Bible. I content that the Church is simply ALL believers. That said, I don't think it matters if they got together in a large, organized setting or in a small, casual group of a few. To date, I haven't found any scriptures that requires that there must be a meeting with songs, announcements, and a sermon in order to call it church. I think that's just how WE organized it.

As I said before, I'm NOT against Sunday morning assembly in a church and a steeple ("open the door, and see all the people..." Never mind.). But, I also don't think that Sunday morning worship is the ONLY way to do it.

Andre said...

@ JD: I feel like I have to remind you AGAIN that my ex-spear-dee-aunce with MCMBC provided the stimulus I needed to act, but I've been feeling this way for a long time. I just hung with it because it was the "polite and expected" thing to do. It was NEVER because my heart was in it.

jd said...

Andre,

I hate how my initials how up in small letters. :)

I believe that your "ex-spear-dee-aunce" at MCMBC was a great learning tool for you to move on to something greater. Bottom line:

YOU'D JUST BETTER HAVE YO' @SS AT A CHURCH ON SUNDAY!!!!!


:)

JD said...

Sorry, I wasn't politically correct:

YO' @SS BETTER BE "ASSEMBLED" SOMEWHERE ON SUNDAY BEING SPIRITUALLY FED!!!!!


LOL!

Andre said...

Day-um J!

*rushing home to pick out a suit to wear on Sunday*

Cynthia said...

There are so many great comments here, it's hard to add to the conversation. But, I'll try:

I don't think that we should ever feel forced to serve God under threat of being a second class citizen in the Body of Christ. If I know anything about God, I don't think that telling people that they have to occupy a pew week after week, year after year is not what God wants. Our service to God and to one another is voluntary and is the product of our hearts.

Indeed it's reasonable to say that our salvation should not be dependent on our "church attendance," or for that matter, any kind of programs we may invent in church (small c). The purpose for wanting to meet with fellow believers is clearly pointed out in Hebrews 10:24: "Let us think about how we may cause one another to love and to do good things." We can accomplish this in a chance meeting with one person, or meeting periodically with a group of people. Either way, we should not forsake the principle of getting together with others for mutual edification. Whether that's done in a building, in our living room, or at a Falcons game (ATL!) is up to you!

Andre said...

Well put, Cyn. I couldn't said it better.

Are you sure you're not a first lady in the church?! *wink*

saved_sinner said...

Good Discussion Andre. I gained some pretty interesting insight; things I never really thought about until now.

Thanks for challenging me, brother!

Megan said...

I think its interesting that people take Paul's letter to the Hebrews ( the "not to forsake the assembling of yourselves together, as some are in the manner of doing" verse) and misapply it. If you think about it, Paul never once said that "the assembling of yourselves together" had to be done in a traditional church setting. Yet, in the present day, Christians generally interpret that as meaning one had to physicallly be in church.

From what I read, I don't see that.

green eyed girl on planet earth said...

Hello My Greeneyed handsome man,
I see you had a busy weekend, but an enjoyable one.That walk seemed to do you good, crisp fall air,,,, nice. Glad to hear you got alot off your chest , hope your feeling better or lighter and uplifted ,,,,Would have loved to see you in you SUNDAY BEST anytime ,,,, even if playing B Ball :} and arent we a eager beaver ,,,,working on a Sunday . Employee of the year award coming up???????LOL
I made a wish upon a star this weekend for you to find peace and a resolution to your place of worship woes ,hope it helps .

Take care Andre~
Greeneyes **