Here’s what one of our church leaders had to say about Niki’s thought provoking questions regarding why we do church and how we do church:
Thanks for the thought-provoking question and the reference to Oprah’s new show. I had the opportunity to watch it on Sunday night in which she interviewed Chris Christie. I loved the show and her style of going to his house and meeting him and his family where they were normally. I also enjoyed the lack of a studio audience. It was definitely more real and down to earth, though it did, of course, still have order and purpose (i.e. Oprah didn’t just blather away or ask stupid questions – she had focused, pointed questions that were relevant to her guest (his background and what shaped him as a person, his weight issues, his politics), her audience (their perception of him versus the ‘real’ him), and the world at large (politics in general, family life versus work life, weight issues, etc etc etc). So, long story short, focused and relevant, but also close to the source and down to earth.
The church could and is beginning to follow a similar pattern. Stephen’s bar church, for example, is going to the place where those people are at – the bar. He meets them where they’re most comfortable and ministers to them based on what’s relevant to them. He has focus and purpose, he doesn’t just go booze with them and call it ‘church’ for example, but he does meet them where he finds them, love them, serve them, and teach them about the Lord. Jenn Easel does the same thing with her prison inmate buddy – she goes to meet him where he’s at, loves on him, serves him, and teaches him about the Lord. When you think about the word that Jesus used to describe “the Church” (i.e. on this rock I will build My church – Matthew 16:18), the word he uses for “church” is “ekklesia” (basic transliteration) which means “an assembly of people who are called out from the world for a specific purpose.” When Stephen and Jenn go to the bar to minister or the prison to minister, respectively, they are indeed ‘calling people out’ of where they are to gather for the purpose, i.e. doing church. To call someone out of a place, one usually has to go to that place, or at least very close to that place, to do the calling (especially in the context of when that statement was penned, pre-telephone by about 1800 years). Jesus comes to us where we’re at and draws us to Him. Oprah goes to people where they’re at and draws them to her and her audience. Likewise, we should go to people where they’re at and draw them to us and the Lord. This can be done by going to a bar, going to a prison, praying for someone at work or starting a Bible study, inviting people to your house for dinner, going to their house for dinner, etc etc etc.
Now I don’t think that “the building” is a worthless piece of cultural construct that we should just throw out entirely. Many of us are comfortable in a ‘church building’ setting – that’s where we’re at. If there’s no church building for standard churchgoers to find and visit, then there’ll be a whole swathe of people who will miss out. We can;t simply rely on networking. Plus, human beings naturally gravitate toward meeting in ‘buildings’, be they large, small, made of bricks, wood, or animal skins. Additionally, the building often comes out of the need simply for a bigger space in which to meet regularly. This was the case of MVFF, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But where the change needs to be, in my opinion, is having the building be somewhere the existing assembly flows into on a Sunday or whenever because they’ve already been meeting throughout the week and they want to share a common service together, not so they can get their church duty in and then spiritually goof off the rest of the week. So, change the paradigm of the building, don’t abolish it.
So, those are my thoughts. 🙂