Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The C Word

Well, it's been nearly two months since my last post...where does the time go? Life has been full to say the least with a week long family vacation, school starting, and an unexpected trip to Idaho, getting back into the school routine, etc. I'm finally getting grounded again,....well, at least I like to tell myself that.

Anyways, I've had a few thoughts swimming around in my head as of late regarding church. The other day I ran into someone who attends the last church I left. After exchanging pleasantries he asked me if we'd found a church yet. Immediately I said no, and then I said that I'm done with that is. I think I really scared the poor guy, I mean seriously spooked him and then some. He responded with wide eyes, "Really?" and again, "Really?" I told him briefly that I was done with the system, structure, etc. and honestly I didn't want to go deeper into it since there were several friends there who aren't Christians, so I left it at that. He responded with, "Oh, well, I don't care...I mean, it's not my deal...umm,...urr..." At that point my daughter bounded up to him and gave him a huge hug thus abruptly ending the extremely awkward conversation, which had been laced with my unsuspecting friend's nervous laughter. Later I thought over the conversation and realized I could have been less direct, abrupt, and down right scary. Part of me wanted to say something like, "So where does it say in the Bible that we have to go to church anyway? Church isn't defined as a building even one time in scripture." Then I would have launched into my whole definition of "gathering", and on and on. Next time I will just say that I haven't found a church yet...after a few years that won't work, and then I'll come up with something else polite and tidy that will hopefully dispel any speculation or horror.

Since this conversation I've been mulling over the definition of church and what it means to me. I've thought it over before, yes I have. I've spent hours reading, studying, trying to wrap my brain around what church is supposed to be, and why and how we've gotten so off track with it all. I know it's far more complex than just one little blog entry, but I realized that it's become way too complicated than it should be. Then something hit me today - I'm confused about what church is. I haven't sorted and sifted through all of the programming the church put in me; it's all in there still tumbling around making me feel crazy. I left the whole system behind, and now I'm unraveling all that the system had to offer and I've come to a bit of a dead end. It annoys me when people say that they're still searching, especially coming from Christians. I want to look at them and say, "You mean God hasn't shown you? If God is truly God, and you believe in Him, then ask and He'll tell you." That's what religion always told me: Have faith, seek God, and He will answer you. But what if He doesn't, what then? It must be a lack of faith, yep, that's it. I knew the system didn't work for me, so I got out. The freedom I've encountered has been beyond words, and my faith in God has increased beyond what it was before. But now that I really have to seek God for myself the truth is I don't know how to! Nobody is there telling me what to do, and why, and what happens if I don't, and on and on. It's a bewildering feeling to say the least.

In thinking about all of this I came to the realization that the church has it backwards. The first and foremost important thing in Christendom is that you attend church. Because what is the mark of a Christian you say? A person who attends a church, and denomination follows suit behind that as well as relationships and community. But what if someone asked me where I went to church and I answered, "I have lots of relationships with other believers. We hang out over dinner, talk on the phone, text, etc. and it's awesome." They would look at me like I lost my flippin mind. They would most likely think I attended a house church, (I call them mini churches), home fellowship, whatever you call it. I was always taught that if you left the church you were a backslider. You were "out of fellowship." Um, so going to a building where you sing a few songs and listen to one guy talk for an hour, (if you're lucky - it's generally at least an hour and a half), and talking for a few minutes afterwards is fellowship....really?

Nowhere in the Bible does it say you have to meet at a building for a specified period of time with other believers. An example of the New Testament believers is shown - they met in homes and broke bread together. Occasionally they met publicly in large groups, which was customary of the day and believers and non believers alike met this way in Greek culture. Other than that we're not told a whole lot. So, back to my original question - what is church? If it's not a building, then I figure there must be an essence, a meaning, a purpose for this thing we call church. What is the glue that holds it together? What makes it tick, and what makes it attractive to people? Let's face it, what we've been doing certainly isn't attractive.

I've come to the point where I have to honestly say I don't have the answer. I know it's out there and I know it's tangible. So I'm going with my gut and following the white rabbit. This past month I've had more connections with like minded people than I did in two years of attending church. I don't have an agenda for these relationships - where they lead is any one's guess. But I do know that for the first time in my life I feel like the journey I'm on is as important as the destination, and that's a beautiful thing. I'm seeing all of these complex little puzzle pieces fall out of the sky like snowflakes. Each one is like a small present all wrapped up just for me. This time I'm going to know what I know because I sought it out on my own and nobody can take it away from me.

By the way, I hope my blog can be a two way conversation, heaven knows we've all had enough of the one way kind. If you have any thoughts on what church is (outside of the box) I'd love to hear them.

Until next time, keep looking up for those puzzle pieces. The truth is out there.