I know it's been forever since I blogged, but I am feeling led to today so here goes. Warning: I'm in one of those moods!
Yesterday I did something I haven't done for 6 months...I "went to" church. You see, Carla and I have been on a bit of a sabbatical from "going to" church as we're feeling led to focus more on being the church. Strangely enough, our faith seems to be changing and being more challenged by Him. It's been a blast to really grow deeper in our love for the Lord and sense more and more of His presence and commands, but it has been a bit ironic in that we have done that without "going to" church.
The concept of "going to" church isn't found in the Bible. At all. Ever. In fact, "church" is not mentioned much at all. It isn't even alluded to. Living together in obedience to God, however, is written all over the place. So that is what we have been praying through. (We have been doing a lot of reading so comment on this post if you're interested and I'll give you a little bibliography.) What we have been doing is living more for Him and doing so with the people God has placed in our path right now...the church. We've been meeting in homes and letting Christ truly be the head of our times. No set agenda, just His spirit leading, teaching, convicting, challenging, comforting, changing.
So yesterday was a big step for me. I "went to" a large suburban Pittsburgh "church" which, in my mind, is a really large beautiful building. My time there was a confirmation that God is leading us right now. The "service" (why do we call it that?) lasted one hour and 20 minutes and was perfectly orchestrated. Beautiful computer controlled moving synchronized stage lighting, and "worship leaders" standing with their toes right on the tape in the proper place on the stage. The "message" was 50 minutes in length...30 minutes until Scripture was really even alluded to and 40 minutes until one verse was even read. There were two prayers in the "service"...one at the beginning and one at the end. There were two songs, the first to "lead us into the presence of the Lord" and the other to, I suppose, take up for the awkwardness of passing the offering bags on a stick. The entire time, I was thinking "how is this the church?" And it isn't just there, but this idea of compartmentalizing our faith into a neat, timed, comfortable package just makes me want to jump out of my skin. (Note: I have been doing some real soul-searching and forgiveness-seeking for some of what I did as a pastor...thank you Jesus for your grace toward us!) The fact that the place was very empty compared to the dozen or so Christmas services they had is another weird and telling piece. As an unchurched friend of mine said a few years ago of this church (and a few others whose mailing list he must be on) "why do they only want me to come at Christmas?
I can honestly say that I haven't missed "going to" church. I do long for the church, however. I long for people who live lives together in the mess and grace of following Jesus. I do long to be with people who's sole desire is to know and follow the living God. I long to live life with people who see that as happening in less scheduled, structured, formatted, and programmed ways. I already said it, but I'll say it again...I long for the church.