St Luke's Anglican

-- connecting with our community --

You don’t need to go to church … and other fairytales

You don't need to go to church to be a Christian and other fairy tales ...

First by way of introduction, some comments and thoughts prompted by the article:

 

I hear so much these days from various pundits in church and religious circles about "doing church differently". And so far, I have not yet heard anything that really seems to be to be so very much different.

On the one hand, models still are based on what worked in the 50's and 60's but that today do not account for the reality in which many parishes are situated. As one example, I am referring to the model of a full-time clergy being the only way for a church to be considered a "real church". 

Then, on the other hand, contemporary efforts have moved on from folk-masses but, insofar as doing things differently, miss the fact that if the Church is not making new church members to support the mission of the Church, it will simply vanish. Or, so it would seem, at least, to me.

It seems to me that one major element in the mission of the Church is to care for those in need. It is not about us; it's about the poor and those in need. Christians gather to have a base from which to put caring into action.

It seems to me that one major element in the mission of the Church is to care for those in need. It is not about us; it's about the poor and those in need. Christians gather to have a base from which to put caring into action.

Christians come together in community to encounter Jesus. They also come together to be a community of people who interact with one another along a shared journey in faith to learn, grow and reach out. They reach out to make a positive difference in the world -- to put into action the teachings of Jesus. Since the earliest days of the Church, Christians have gathered together in what have come to be known as churches. (They have always been communities of faith no matter where exactly they may have gathered.)

What I have touched on here represents only some very preliminary and sporadic thinking. Nonetheless, it seems to me that the simple fact is that if Christian people are not gathering as communities of faith, the secular world will either, at worst, swallow them up entirely or, at best, fragment them beyond their being any kind of community of faith. Not a lot of attention is being paid to that fact.

Jason Clark elaborates in much greater depth and detail in his article based on his years of ministry and teaching in the UK. I gather that his perspective is from an evangelical view-point. He makes numerous observations that we would be wise to ponder. I commend his article to you as a catalyst for reflection and pondering.

The Rev'd Glenn Empey

An article written by Jason Swan Clark

You don’t need to go to church to be a Christian and other fairy tales reposted by Scot McKnight on Patheos

 

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. – Hebrews 10:25 NLT

A couple excerpts -- See below for full article or podcast

We don’t go to church, we are the church” is at times a well-intentioned claim by some, and at others, a fig leaf for those who have given up on the church to hide behind. Either way, it is ultimately a damaging and self-harming assertion.

 

Human beings have been hiding away, withdrawing from God and one another since the garden of Eden. And, like Adam and Eve, we Christians are very good at making excuses for withdrawing, believing the lies we tell ourselves that underpin such backing away. The internal stories are often these: ‘I need a break, I need to focus on my kids/family, I want time to myself, I have to get this marathon/triathlon/course done’, etc.

 

We then succumb to, and placate, any doubts we might have about our stories with more fabrications. ‘I can get back to church later’, ‘it won’t affect me’, and, even worse, ‘this is what’s best for me’. Such stories are, at best, fantasies, fairy tales and myths. At worst, they are mendacities that destroy God’s work in us and the world. Satan is indeed the father of lies, prowling around looking to devour us. His greatest ploy and tactic has not been a full-frontal assault on belief; instead it has been the insidious entropy of attendance. A lion secures its prey by first isolating it, so it is then free to devour it. ...

 

Dave Tomlinson pioneered new forms of church in a pub, back in the 1990s. Yet, he told me a few years ago, that the reasons he became an Anglican priest after all his post-church explorations, was because he could gather people to drink beer and listen to ideas of what Christianity could and should be, and what the church ought to do. But those people did not want to [practise] Christianity and be the church. It seems it’s far easier to gather together around lifestyle interests, and to pontificate on what the church ought to be, with no intention of ever being the church. For the activity that precedes and qualifies the word church becomes the logic, the social imaginary, and the force that co-opts and forms what action we take. Cafe Church becomes about drinking coffee. Pub Church about drinking beer, Water Skiing Church about water skiing, etc. ...

The only mission taking place in these private God spaces is the formation of material secular humanistic visions for life. We have fallen foul of thinking we can put something in front of the word church, and it will still be church: Cafe Church, Skateboarding Church, Messy Church. Many years ago, Stanley Hauerwas alerted us to the fact that, whatever qualifying word we put in front of church, completely sets the agenda, overwhelming and colonising what the church should be. ...

The only mission taking place in these private God spaces is the formation of material secular humanistic visions for life. We have fallen foul of thinking we can put something in front of the word church, and it will still be church: Cafe Church, Skateboarding Church, Messy Church. Many years ago, Stanley Hauerwas alerted us to the fact that, whatever qualifying word we put in front of church, completely sets the agenda, overwhelming and colonising what the church should be. ...

[Yet]...The Kingdom of God is indeed at hand, if we will step into it.

 

Attendance would lead to the greatest revolutionary act of our modern age if everyone who calls themselves a Christian turned up and took part. So, choose a church that offends the least, and is less boring than most, mark the calendar and attend. And, upon entering, be a person who welcomes, serves, gives, cares, prays and participates. It could lead to revival. It’s in our grasp. Just go to church and take part.

Jason

3 Comments

  1. Jason Swan Clark on 30 August 2019 at 3:20 AM

    Glad the article was helpful. Thanks for your thoughts on this most important issue.

  2. Doug Woods on 16 March 2019 at 2:16 PM

    I hear it all the time: I don’t need Jesus/God. Christianity is just a way of setting a moral compass. I’ve already got mine. Well, moral teaching is certainly a big part of what we Christians do, but as my friends the philosophers say, “Necessary, but not sufficient.” Let me continue.

    We spend a great amount of time worshipping—just contemplating God and God’s greatness and power and praising God for all of the goodness in creation. We do our worship sometimes alone, sometimes in the company of others. Worshiping together gives encouragement to all present. It’s fair to ask, “Are all in the church Christians?” and “Are all Christians in church?” The answer to both is “No”; we just live with that.

    We also learn in the church. I’ve heard the church described as an “academy”. It is, and that’s important. It’s important for anyone to spend their life learning, and it’s especially for us and for the PRACTICE of our faith to learn continually about what it means to be a Christian.

    As well, the church is—or should be—a social justice centre. It’s where we get to put our beliefs to work in the service of others.

    Finally, there’s the contentious one; we call it evangelism, but I’ll bet it’s different from what you think. Here’s what evangelism is NOT. It’s not standing up on a soap box and haranguing the passersby. It’s never about pushing our beliefs down the throats of others. For me, it’s about answering the questions of others when they ask about the faith. What I typically get is a question that begins, “You know, I’ve always wanted to ask … .”

    • Father Glenn on 16 March 2019 at 10:30 PM

      Hey Doug,

      Thanks for the thoughtful comments. I agree that ‘evangelism’ is the tricky part especially these days. On the one hand, when it is pushed by those who think they have the only (right) answers, it can and does create barriers. And it has done that in our society. On the other hand, we (mainline) Christians have not done a very good job of communicating the essentials of our faith in a way to draw others into the community of faith. And its seems to me now that this call to ‘envaglelism is a key action that we will have to come to understand and put effectively into practice.

Leave a Comment