“Richard Halverson writes, ‘When the Greeks got the gospel, they turned it into a philosophy; when the Romans got it, they turned it into a government; when the Europeans got it, they turned it into a culture; and when the Americans got it, they turned it into a business.’”
– quoted in Reimagining Church
“Where do you go to church?”
I don’t like the question. I haven’t for awhile.
I know what people mean when they ask; I still ask it of others myself. We’re asking what building do you worship in on Sundays, who do you serve with, what doctrines do you hold to, are we more alike or different in our beliefs.
And I can give the short answer to that question with no cringing.
But if you want a fuller answer . . .
I have multiple “churches.” I fellowship with many communities of believers in Jesus.
Yes, one is in the same building every Sunday morning.
But another is in a booth at Hardee’s on Saturday mornings and at lunch at Buena Vista now and again. Another is in the clothing room at Manna House on Wednesday afternoons, another is in my bedroom every night with Jeff, another around a different kitchen table or couch every month with my extended family.
All these combined make up church. They are the called-out believers I gather with.
And they also include you, friends I’ve never seen in person but whom I’ve grown to know and love in Christ online. We’re all in the same Kingdom.
No, church isn’t a building. But neither is it just a home. It’s in both and all and far more—phones and cars and restaurants and beaches and keyboards and backyards.
Jesus goes with us as we meet with others in ALL those places.
My view of church continues to evolve. So in reading Frank Viola’s Reimagining Church, I’m stretched yet again.
Viola writes to challenge our thinking of institutional church—he believes it no longer reflects God’s original intent. He proposes an organic approach—meeting in homes—like the earliest church did.
But perhaps even Viola’s image is too confining. I wrote more notes in the margin of this book than I have in awhile. Things like: “I doubt that was the reason” and “Yes, but on an everyday basis” and “Is this the only option???”
I don’t think Viola would mind the banter. Actually, I think he’d welcome it. Because we both care about the main thing: Jesus is Lord, and the church is to revolve around him.
“The church, therefore, should not be confused with an organization, a denomination, a movement, or a leadership structure. The church is the people of God, the very bride of Jesus Christ.”
– Frank Viola
He points out that the chief metaphor for the church in the New Testament is the family. He describes six aspects of what that means: the members take care of one another; they spend time together; they show one another affection; they grow; they share responsibility; and they reflect the Triune God in their relationships.
He gives lots of specifics of how this can look (and has looked in his experiences with house churches), and how he thinks it should not look (he prefers no clergy/laity distinctions, for example). Yet he remains humble about it: “I acknowledge that I could be completely wrong in my assessments, and I am open to standing corrected. But I only ask that those who make such critiques first experience for themselves what they are setting out to critique.”
He doesn’t deny God’s power to work in any situation: “Make no mistake about it: God has used and is using the institutional church. Because of His mercy, the Lord will work through any structure as long as He can find hearts in it that are truly open to Him.”
And he’s not afraid of tipping over sacred cows.
“Therefore, a pressing need today is the rediscovery of biblical language and ideas. We need to rethink our entire concept of church and discover it afresh through the lens of Jesus and the apostles. Because of common misteaching, we have many deeply buried assumptions that are in need of excavation and examination. Many of us have been mistaught that ‘church’ means a building, a denomination, or a worship service. And that a ‘minister’ is a special class of Christian.”
Occasionally I smile at the truth of his examples:
“ . . . you’ll have to go against the harsh grain of what one writer calls ‘the seven last words of the church’ (We never did it that way before).”
And even though he loses me in places, in the end he stills circles around Christ as the center. So regardless of the minor points we disagree on, we are still united.
So where do I go to church?
Well, it’s a long story. . . .
* * *
- Getting kids to serve
- If you think you can’t memorize . . .