Friday, February 17, 2006

What does it mean to be the church in the 21st century?

The first thing we must understand is that the church is people rather than a place. We often use the word “church” to refer to a building. But church buildings did not exist in New Testament times. In fact, for the first three centuries of its existence, Christianity was an underground movement. It wasn’t until 313 when Constantine legitimized Christianity that Christian worship went public.

Church buildings are beneficial, but they also have some negative influences on the Kingdom.

They add a financial burden to a congregation. Constructing and maintaining a building is costly. It is easy for the tail to wag the dog and for the congregation to see its purpose as serving the building. Money that could be used for ministry is often spent on elaborate structures.

Another drawback of church buildings is that they reinforce the perception of a sacred/secular distinction. It is unfortunate that we even use these words. God never intended for life to be severed into these two parts. But modern society has built a massive concrete wall to separate the sacred from the secular. And the church has bought in to this lie.

Church buildings also tend to create a mindset that seeks to draw people in. We build our buildings and develop programs hoping that we can draw people to “church” so that we can minister to them. The arrow is going in the wrong direction. Instead of trying to draw people in, the church should be sending people out into the world to engage in ministry.

And because we gather at a specific time in a specific place we tend to think of church as a meeting rather than a community. The church was intended to be more like a family than an organization. The family doesn’t stop being a family when its members are not at home. Even if its members move away, it continues to be a family. But we tend to think of the church as the group of people who meet at a certain place. This also feeds the false distinction between the sacred and the secular. When we are at the church building we are “doing church.” The rest of the time we are just getting on with life. Consequently, being the church and living our lives seem like two separate, and competing, activities.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we get rid of our church building—not yet anyway. But we must constantly be on the guard against these misunderstandings if we are going to be the body of Christ and if we are going to effectively participate in the Kingdom of God.

Pastor Rod

“Helping you become the person God created you to be”

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Pastor Rod said...

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