Tag Archives: Church

Christians Being Christian

wwjdI am not very comfortable in “Christian” settings. For a long time now, I’ve said that I “don’t like Christians”, but that’s meant to be at least somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I know that Jesus is life, that there is no life outside of him; and for me, everything I do, and see, and experience runs through that filter.

I am also quite fond of others who see the world around us from that perspective: knowing the loving Creator Father who made it, and us, and Jesus whom he sent, and his Spirit in us. It’s wonderful spending time with others who share that same understanding, passion, and reality.

But I recently had a moment of clarity on this subject. It’s not Christians that make me feel uneasy, it’s being at any event or location where Christians are “being Christian”.

It’s that pretense, that front, that game playing … that is what gets me to put my own guard up, and, sadly, it’s why I usually try to avoid “Christian” events.

When the language becomes Christian, when certain behaviors are expected, beliefs—not in Jesus, but in the “traditions of man”, as Paul often labeled them—are silently presumed to be firmly held and agreed upon; this is when my stomach usually tightens into disquieted knots.

I love being with other believers, but if the reason for gathering is somehow labeled “Christian”, or all the participants know that they are there to “be Christian” … I think that’s where it starts to fall apart.

And the reason is that we are not supposed to BE CHRISTIAN.

We are supposed to love each other. Love God. Be loved. The things that we think mark us as believers are evidence of lives changed from within, by God himself. Not our own efforts at all. That’s so important.

It’s completely from, for, about, and through him.

So when we who live our lives wholly with Jesus are in a setting that is not specifically “his”, I find that those times are more relaxed. (As long as we’re not “being Christian” and condemning wrong behavior that is acceptably condemnable.)

This is part of the problem. “Being Christian” is often akin to thinking a certain way on various issues, behaviors, and doctrines. (This is why there are so many splinters of the church. Doctrinal spats create unending levels of division between believers.) Christians are against homosexuality and gay marriage; six-day creationism versus evolution (and every other theory of our origins); taking God, prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Bible out of public arenas like schools and other government buildings; and many Christians hold strong views about politics that they tie to their “Christianity”.

How do any of these things make us “Christian”? In what way do they distinguish us as followers of Jesus? How are we like him by conforming to these standards?

Jesus prayed for us. Did you know that? Right before he went to the cross, John records the words he prayed. He prayed for the people he was with, and he prayed for us. Listen:

“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.

“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!

“O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.”1

To Jesus, our unity was paramount. We in him, he in his Father, Father in him, he in us. That we as believers—centuries and millennia in the future—would be visibly, notably united was foremost in his heart and mind as he faced death on the cross.

Jesus’ unity was not just a doctrinal thing. He spent time with people who may have disagreed with him. He certainly spent time with some who were different from him. He was usually chastised in regards to whom he chose to spend his time with.

He was not “being Christian” at “Christian” gatherings.

Why can’t we just be together, and enjoy each other, and share the variety and diversity of our lives and selves together, with no need for judging, condemning, conforming, reforming, or any other manipulation of each other; whether directly or by inference?

I don’t know. But that’s why I don’t enjoy Christian gatherings. It’s a bunch of Christians being Christian.

We are most like Jesus when we love, accept, offer grace and truth together—which I think is much less common practice than many Christians admit—and truly love people who most need loving.

Which is all of us.

I don’t want to be a Christian. I want Jesus to live his love through me. (Just as he prayed for us above.) I want to be so close to him that people recognize his scent on me. Not through any of my own strength, or practice, or perfecting… just the work he is doing in me. It’s not at all about me. Only him. And you.

If we all live like that, being together with Christians who are truly “being Christian” would be the most amazing place on earth.

Because HE is embodied in us. (We’re not trying to be his body.)

Oh man. That would be spectacular.

We just have to stop trying, and let him change us. Stop being Christian. Be loved. And Christ will be in you.

Amen.

The Church Book: Revisited

htc-smallI came across a copy of my “Church book”, There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church!, just today, and on a whim I picked it up and flipped through it. For some reason, the epilogue, titled “Concluding Remarks”, caught my eye this time.

If you think the book is anti-church, these words should dispel that notion. The words are the written expression of many weeks, months, and years of deep, soul-searching, truth-seeking efforts for the church, the Bride of Christ.

Happening across these words again today was interesting, coupled with a conversation we had this past week with an old friend. The subject of “the church” was central to a portion of our discussion. We both spent much time crafting emotional, spirit-filled, Jesus-centered programs. Everything was meant to point the hearer/seer to Jesus. And it was wonderful. We commented that we definitely miss those moments. And still, we also recall the not-just-physical exhaustion of energy possibly slightly misdirected: building up an organization and event, rather than one another.

If you haven’t purchased (or downloaded for free) and read a copy of this book yet, I wonder if what I wrote at the end of the book might encourage you to do so? I had forgotten about this part, but I think eight years later, this is all still true. (Even while some of the other things I’ve read might have been slightly modified by the passage of time.)

Here, today, is the short epilogue, in its entirety.

As I finished putting this book together, I couldn’t help but think that I had missed something. I tried to go back over each chapter in my head, wondering if I had said all that I hoped to communicate through a few thousand feeble words. I want so much to convey the astounding freedom that we have in the quite undeserved love of our Father. I want to communicate that we as the church could be so much more! I don’t want to attack, or belittle the things that so many brothers and sisters cherish (as did I in the not too distant past). I only want to offer what I believe we Christians already know and teach, but perhaps are just not living out.

A phrase from Scripture comes to mind quite often when I ponder the current forms of the Church. “A form of godliness, but denying its power.” To me it seems that could define the church, and the lives of many believers today. We have created a facade that would pretend to offer us life with Jesus, when in fact it is only a set of ethics to which we must adhere. It’s only a meeting to attend. A job to be done.

The kingdom of heaven is so much more. It’s here, now. Jesus has made it possible for us to know him and the Father by his Holy Spirit right inside us. He is always with us. Through good, and bad. This is the nature of the church. In reality, it’s not something we have created to propagate truths passed down through generations. We have turned it into that. But the church is the living, breathing, body and bride of Christ. It’s much more real than we have allowed it to be.

I don’t know if the words on these pages have stirred you or not. If they have, it was not the words that stirred. It was your Father. He loves you, just like he loves me. He has communicated that to me through many means, and I am hopeful that you heard his voice through this book. It is not my intention to tear down anything with this book, only to liberate and help open our eyes to the greatness of what we have, and perhaps what we’re missing.

Live today in the freedom of God’s love and grace. Know he loves you, and longs to be with you. His love is perfect, and compels us to love as we’ve been loved. May you know the greatness of living life as the church with others similarly loved.

Grace and Peace to you, The Church.
Greg Campbell

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There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church by Greg Campbell, is available through Amazon.com. If you’d like to purchase the book, please click the book title in the previous sentence. If you’d like a free PDF version, it is available here. Also have some of the audio version available at church.gregshead.net. Thanks for reading, sharing, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments below, or wherever else you can reach me.

Clearance Sale Event – “Church Book” for $4.99!

UPDATE: This sale has ended, but if you’d like to purchase the book, you can find it at Amazon.com

Yesterday’s post, along with the several conversations about the church which I referenced having been party to in the recent past, have me thinking about the book I published on this subject. It you’ll allow me a very quick “commercial” post, I’d like to tell you just a little bit about it, including the currently drastically lowered price. (Who doesn’t like discounts!?)

Many years ago now, our musical travels took us to many different “versions” of churches. There were Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, Methodist churches, Presbyterian churches, Episcopal, Seventh Day Adventist, Worldwide Church of God, Pentecostal churches (of many varieties), Baptist churches, Catholic churches… pretty much every kind out there!

Along this journey, God was stirring something in our hearts.

There's The Steeple - Here's The Church | Greg Campbell | The Church BookOf course the differences were easy enough to notice. What struck me was the importance of the similarities.

Where one Baptist loved Jesus with all she was, another Presbyterian’s soul reverberated those same sentiments at the deepest core of his being. Whether demonstratively emotive in worship, or suit-and-tie reverent, there were people in each of these places—not all of the people anywhere, but there were some people in all of the places—whose lives were changed and forever united with the Jesus.

There’s only one. And it’s his church.

It began to become abundantly clear to me (many thoughts I’d had for years leading up to this being confirmed) that the church is much greater than a name on a sign, or an hour one weekend, or the person whom the crowds come to hear preach or sing.

There’s nothing wrong with belonging to a community with another name (any name other than simply, “the church”) but First Baptist Church of Your Town, USA is not “the church”. She is much bigger than that. Much more amazing than a building, its staff, or its programs, or anything under its lesser banner.

If you’ve ever had these thoughts… please dig through the archvies here. So much. (Much more since I published the book, actually.)

But I’d like to invite you to purchase this book.

The one at the top of the post. If what I’m saying here resonates with you, I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading through what was essentially a journal of my own journey through the process of understanding a greater, larger, and simpler reality of who the church is.

We recently found several boxes of the book that I didn’t realize we still have here in our home, so I want to get them out to people—to you!

For $4.99 plus shipping (varies by quantity) you can purchase this book to enjoy yourself, pass along to someone else who has a hunger for the simpler church, and at the same time, help buy some food for the Campbell family! It’s a win-win, for sure!

Thanks for taking time to read this, and please share this with whomever you think might be interested.

Another great resource is The God Journey podcast, hosted by Wayne Jacobsen, or also his main website, Lifestream Ministries. Wayne articulates so well his thoughts about a life with Father without the burdens of religious obligations.

Hope you can help us clear out this inventory, and enjoy the greatness of Jesus’ Church at the same time.

Thanks!

One last thing… here’s the back cover of the book. Who doesn’t love more information?! Click for the full-size version.

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Thoughts on Church Attendance

church-serviceI’m not sure why, but it’s curious to me that the topic of church attendance has popped up a time or two in recent conversations. It’s sort of different every time, but all of the occasions have been cordial, courteous, and even understanding and affirming of the thoughts we have on how we are part of the church, the body of Christ. I can’t think of any time that I have brought it up, but it’s been part of enough conversations that it merited a post here this mid-February day.

Right in the middle of these instances of “church talk” was an article I happened to spot by author, Donald Miller, on his website StoryLineBlog.com. I am subscribed to his blog and usually scan his posts once a week or so, reading those that catch my eye. Last week I spotted one titled, “Why I Don’t Go To Church Very Often, A Follow Up Blog“. Follow up? I wondered, I don’t remember seeing the first one…

Curious, I clicked and read, then clicked his link to the original and read—and much more surprising than anything Miller shared were the readers’ comments to both of these blog posts.

Miller’s first article was merely an informal, from-the-heart, spur-of-the-moment, observational post about a recent weekend worship service experience. He basically was “confessing” (his word) that he doesn’t connect with God through music, or any element of the traditional worship service. And so he has chosen to not often be part of that gathering, but finds community with other believers (the Church) elsewhere in life.

Seems fairly harmless to me. How about you?

The readers who felt the need to reply were (it seemed to me) mostly distraught at his proclamation. “How could you say it’s OK to not be part of the church!” And, “Church is not about you, or what you get out of it, Don!” And the lambasting continued with comment after comment—at the writing of this post, there are just about 500 comments on the original post—most of them sharply chastising Miller’s flippant attitude towards the sacred.

Hoo-boy… I’ve been there.

The issue is not whether or not we are called to be together, or to live and serve each other and together in community as the body of Christ. That’s a fairly obvious reality of the church from scripture. The issue is what we are calling “church”.

If you mainly see the hour (or two) on a weekend day—some people attend a Saturday service, you know—as “church” then you might be prone to astonishment at someone’s admission that it’s not their favorite thing—AND that they are “OK” with not attending it. That is actually understandable.

But did Jesus really come into this world to share the Good News of the Sunday morning worship service? Is that what we are called to?

I truly do not want to stir the pot here, creating my own flurry of vengeful, protective, defending-the-Kingdom comments. Please don’t respond here, if that’s all you’re feeling. (Because, I think if that’s what you’re feeling, you’re not hearing me correctly.)

I’d be very interested in calm, collected, thoughtful responses to anything I’ve said, or even more, what Donald Miller shared in either post linked above (and I’ll add them below here, too).

It was all so fascinating how vigorously and intensely the weekend worship service was defended by so many voices. The guilt-laden obligation that dripped from many of those same comments was also telling, I think.

Wherever you are with Jesus, I hope you are at peace. If you are not, I hope that it’s his spirit nudging you toward the freedom we are able to have in him—If the son has set you free, you are free indeed.—not toward a life without him, but into a life of rest in his grace and mercy and goodness. Freedom of a life with him.

Here are the links again

I Don’t Worship God by Singing. I Connect With Him Elsewhere.
Why I Don’t Go to Church Very Often, a Follow Up Blog

AND, if you want to read more on thoughts about what the church is, and what it can be, I did publish a book about that: There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church! Available at Amazon, and there is also a free (PDF) download. (But it’s nicer to pay for books… if you can.) 🙂 See below.

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There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church by Greg Campbell, is available through Amazon.com. If you’d like to purchase the book, please click the book title in the previous sentence. If you’d like a free PDF version, it is available here. Also have some of the audio version available at church.gregshead.net. Thanks for reading, sharing, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments below, or wherever else you can reach me.

[ThisDay] Relating

Only two posts were written on January 26th in all of the years of published words here at GregsHead.net. Two! That is interesting… but maybe even more interesting is that this day on the calendar is the very day that my Mum was born! Happy birthday, Mum! (We’re not British, so… well… I don’t know why I’m using their spelling? Maybe it’s just my favourite, or something?) 🙂 Today’s post comes from the year twenty-twelve, when I wrote about something that I often write about—the importance of relationship. Enjoy!

Relationship

January 26th, 2012

You might think I write because I have answers. Or maybe that I think I have answers. Sometimes I guess I do have a certain bit of information I learned that I’d like to share, or a thought on something that might be worth your consideration, it’s true. But often I will write more because of questions I have, rather than answers.

Tonight is one such night.

I have been thinking about the way we relate to each other as a culture for quite some time now. (Search for “Relationship” in the search box to the right and you’ll see what I mean.) It has been important to me for a number of reasons. How we Christians relate to each other as the church, and also how our family relates to and with the people around us. Life is relationship, so it makes sense to me that this would be a common thought thread through many of my days.

Lately I’ve just been wishing there was another family or two with whom we could “do life”. People that we’d spend several days a week with, for varying lengths of time, sharing the important and unimportant things of life.

There are some folks we see pretty often, and whom I feel know us well and vice versa. These are all valued friendships. I’ve just been wondering why there isn’t more? (And by “more” I simply mean more time; more shared life; more relating.)

And I completely understand that part of it is the way we have chosen to do life.

We are not actually removed from life with other people (there are people all around, and we are glad to be with other people) but we are “removed” from the standard relational structures of our society. We home school our kids, so we are not part of the public school community. (That of course is a huge chunk of life for many people with families similar to ours.) We are not part of a “church with a name”, so though we have many great relationships with Christians whom we share our life with God with… well, we aren’t “part” of that “community”.

It seems to me that we Americans can only relate when we are plugged into a larger social structure. We don’t know how to stop over for tea anymore. We don’t know how to hang out on someone’s porch. (Not in the winter time, of course…) We rely on our busy schedules to keep us near to and connected with the people we know. (And that is how we know anyone at all: by being part of the same activities.) When you are not involved in the “activities” of the busy American life, it’s easy to feel “forgotten”.

Now, the weirdest part—and where I have the most questions—is that I know some busy people who have definitely not forgotten about us, and yet we rarely see them. For one reason or another, there’s just not enough time in the week (or month!) to find ourselves in the same physical space to enjoy some time together. But again, if we were doing the same things, we’d either (1) feel like we had “seen” them, and so met the invisible relational quota, or, (2) be reminded/encouraged to make sure to plan other visiting times, or even just drop by?

I’m really not complaining. Even just today a friend dropped in for a brief visit that was much appreciated. And as I said, God has placed some great people around us and we love being part of their lives and having them in ours.

I’m just so baffled by the way we do this. Trying to work out these thoughts!

Now, I think there are regions of our country, in our culture, who live this out differently. I think maybe the South is a bit more relational by default. We experienced this a little when we spent a week of vacation down south this past fall. Random strangers will begin conversations with you at any place or time, and not always just small talk. That is seems to me a bit “healthier” relationally, but I admit, it could just be a personal preference/personality thing. (But then, how is it nearly universally true of one of our American cultures?)

The point is, we are definitely made for relationship. God wired us that way. We’re not meant to be alone. But are we only meant to be together in order to put on, partake in, or attend some function? Aren’t we on some level just supposed to enjoy the company of each other?

I really love it when people just drop by!

(Is it just a structured vs. unstructured lifestyle question I’m really asking?? No. I really think it’s deeper.)

We are missing something. With all our busyness, we are missing each other. We see each other. And in that way we feel a part of a community, but too often keeping our schedules overpowers the opportunities to give to and draw from the people God has surrounded us with.

And, I will also admit to perhaps over-thinking this. I am definitely wont to do that. But something in my gut says there’s more here. There’s more for us. We have a form of relating but deny it’s power. (To twist a Scripture verse…) 🙂

I’ll keep on this and see what Jesus shows me over the next few days, weeks. Maybe you have something to add? Please do below.

Or, just drop by for tea.

OTHER POSTS from JANUARY 26th

[ThisDay] Christianity, or Jesus? (Aren’t They the Same?)

January 22nd in GregsHead history was slightly more difficult to whittle down than some of the other days. It was not due to volume, though—only five posts. Four of the five posts are worth reading (the other is worth it if you are using WordPress for blogging…) but of the six options, I selected the article below for today’s re-reading. Please enjoy this little anecdote from a dinner conversation just last January. Good theological discussion!

Christianity, or Jesus? (Aren’t They the Same?)

January 22nd, 2013

Our family is currently making our way through the book of Luke together. We’re taking our time, but I do enjoy reading in larger chunks, so we will often read what might be the subject of an entire series of sermons in one sitting.

Tonight, we read through the fifteenth chapter: the three stories of lost and found.

Though we’d often read more than that, it’s such a good three-part story—with the most famous, the Prodigal Son story at the end—that I thought it would be nice to stop and discuss.

The kids are reading and learning about “unreached people groups” with Mom during the school days, and both of the older boys picked up on the “lost” theme that Jesus’ stories held.

When I asked what everyone heard in Jesus’ stories, Ian replied first, “I think it shows that God cares about every single person: if even one in a thousand is lost, there’s a celebration when he realizes he’s wrong and returns to God.”

“Yep. So right, Ian.” I affirmed.

Alex chimed in next, “Or, like if one person in the 10 million in Japan who are buddhists or other things turn to Christianity. It’s like that, even.”

I smiled and affirmed Alex’s insightful answer, too. But something didn’t sit right with me, the way he had phrased that answer.

Ian and Mom both explained what they had been studying—unreached people groups—and I realized what it was that bothered me: the lost returning home story is not about conversions to Christianity, it’s about the Good News that Jesus is life and nothing else.

I tried to lovingly expand on that thought to Alex, but I guess maybe it didn’t come out quite right. Jen didn’t think I was saying it correctly, and by offering further instruction at that time, kinda squashed Alex.

jesus-christ-in-stained-glassAnd, honestly, she doesn’t really agree with my instruction, that Christianity is not the same as Jesus.

I told Alex that the somewhat subtle distinction between someone “turning to Christianity” and someone meeting Jesus (The One true God and Jesus Christ whom he sent) are often, even usually very different things.

One is a religion. Plain and simple, Christianity is not in the Bible. (Really! It’s true!) In this sense, Christianity is no different than Islam, Buddhism, Hindu, and so on. Jesus never talked about establishing a religion (though he did mention building the Church) and I can’t think of anywhere that the word “Christianity” or “Christendom” can be found on the pages of Scripture. (Though other people called the Church, “Christians”—Acts 11, and Acts 26—the only other occurrence of the word is in 1 Peter 4:16.)

Returning to a loving Father is a different story. Realizing our need to be connected to the Vine; understanding the limitless, boundless love that God has for us, wanting from before the foundation of the world to adopt us as his own children; understanding how the cross restores our friendship with God by destroying sin and death and shame once and for all…

That’s a different story. (And doesn’t “sign you up” for anything.)

Now, I’m certainly painting with too broad a brush right now. Firstly, only a chapter or two before, Jesus addressed his disciples and the crowds following him, making sure they understood the cost of being his disciple. The cost is… everything. He said we need to be willing to give up everything (even family, wealth/possessions, a home), even our own life.

But the key is, nothing else matters outside of his Life. Nothing.

And that’s the point. Converting to a religion often satisfies our own accomplishable goals and benchmarks. There are “measurables” with Christianity. You can check things off like, reading your Bible, or having quiet time, joining a prayer group, or some other “small group”, going to services, volunteering for a ministry… or five ministries. All of those things can become “feathers” in our caps.

Jesus asks us to volunteer to be last, though. To not be noticed. To give up our dreams, turn the other cheek… all of that. And all because there is nothing we need or could ever want more than to know him.

Paul knew that, and wrote:

Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ. —Phil 3:8

Honestly, I could be convinced that I’m straining out gnats here. OR, I could be convinced that this is the pivotal, most important, fundamental part of the Gospel: Jesus matters.

It’s him. And nothing else. Not a religion (Christianity), not a building or an organization (First Christian Church of Wherever), and not even a set of benchmarks that you set up for yourself to take your spiritual temperature.

Do you trust him? Then you’re in. And your life will never be the same. If you believe that Jesus is Immanuel, God made flesh, the Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life… buckle up!

That might be the same to you as “Christianity”, and if that’s the case, I’m really glad. My experience has been different. We people are good at maintaining control, and I think Jesus wants—longs for—us to relinquish that. Most often systems with fancy names—Christianity—don’t allow any room for that to happen, and even worse, they keep us in the “performance” mindset, where we’re always trying to “do better… for God, of course…

But Jesus’ words were always simply, “Follow me.”

I think it might really be that simple.

OTHER POSTS from JANUARY 22nd

  1. I’d really recommend reading this post, too, if you’ve got the time. It was a very close second!

Focus [Church Book Excerpt]

There's The Steeple - Here's The Church | Greg Campbell | The Church BookFridays in August will be featuring a selected chapter from the book I published on the topic of the Church, titled, There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church—I call it “The Church Book”. If you’d like to read the rest, click the book cover to the left to purchase your copy from Amazon.com! (And, thank you!) Or, see the footer of this post for how to obtain a FREE copy.


Today is the final chapter of this month of “Church Book Excerpts” from the book you see above. If you like what you’ve read, I’d love for you to have a copy of the book. Click through the links above (and also, more information in the article’s footer) to find out how to get your copy.

This chapter is a bit longer, but worth thinking through. Sometimes it’s good to take a look at your focus, and, as necessary, refocus your lens on what you’re truly hoping to capture.

Focus

w
e are off this weekend—not singing anywhere—and even have a break from the kids, while they are with Grandma. So, sometimes when a free weekend presents itself, we will enjoy the quietness and solitude of home when we would otherwise be “working” on a weekend, leading worship in various locations. Today, though we both really wanted to join our friends at Cross Creek Church in Palmyra. When we heard songs that they often do playing on our iPod, we thought of them. We thought of how long it has been since we have seen many of them, since outside of Cross Creek, our lives do not connect. We just had a longing to be there.

So, thanks to a last minute phone call with a friend this morning where we were reminded of the new meeting times, we made it! And it was great to see everyone! It had been a long time, but we got a sentence or two in with most of the folks we know. At least a handshake and a genuine, “Hello.” It was wonderful.

As I was preparing for that this morning, looking forward to seeing everyone, I remembered a brief conversation with a pastor friend of ours. We were talking about how I personally get the most out of any times where I get to connect with friends, other believers who are there for the morning meeting. We catch up on life, what God has been or is doing in their life. How the family is doing, what’s new… all of that sort of stuff. A real connection that seems hard in between the scheduled goings on, and is impossible as I sit quietly on my duff placing my attention on the happenings in the front of the room.

When I mentioned that was what meant the most to me, he quipped with a sarcastic smile, “Why don’t you just go join the moose lodge?!” He was not telling me I should leave, just revealing the focus that he places on our large group gatherings. They are the time we come to learn, to “worship”, and to focus on God—not each other. It’s a vital piece that we do it together, as the family of God, but it’s not the focus.

That is where I beg to differ. I think that “worship” is not a time or a place (as Jesus told the Samaritan woman in John 4) but something we do with every breath. (A popular song uses just those words, “With ev’ry breath I’m praising you…”) So my main reason for going to a large group gathering of believers then is not to worship, since that is something I do every day, all the time, anywhere.

But what about the teaching? Surely that is a reason to attend such a gathering? Absolutely! While I do not deny that so much can be learned from the great teachers who can present clear and understandable truths about the Kingdom from their study and their experience and walk with God, that still is not my main focus for attending such a meeting. Again, I submit that throughout the remainder of each week, my mind and heart are filled with great thinkers’ thoughts on the Kingdom be they in books, web pages, MP3s, radio programs… what have you. There is such a wealth of great teaching available to anyone and everyone today that the Sunday morning gathering is certainly not my primary source of such teaching. And, aside from all of the “expert” teaching we receive from the so-called “professionals”, I enjoy learning from my neighbors, the way they interact with my Father. I enjoy listening to God’s voice through the experiences of friends who may not think themselves teachers, but by sharing their lives with me take on that very role in my life.

So again, at least for me, the reason for attending such a meeting is not to worship—that happens all week long, all the time—nor is it to “be fed” as we like to call it. It is not for the teaching, as again, there is no shortage of that in my life.

Is it perhaps the specialness of the place? No. I mentioned that already, too. Jesus said that worship is not a located thing. There is no place we can go to be closer to him as he now resides in us. In us! We are the temple of the Holy Spirit! That is too deep to go into here. Perhaps another time.

So that leaves me with… the other believers! The reason that I want to attend such a meeting has nothing to do with anything that is planned. Though that is always nice—and helpful—I could get that anywhere. The reason for me is to connect with other believers—especially ones I would not otherwise connect with. To share some piece of our current journey together. To feel and see the bigness of God’s family. So much larger than me. So much larger than my small group of friends. He is real and central in so many lives other than my own. And I love to know Him through them.

Unfortunately, if this is the main reason for Christians gathering in large groups, you’d never know it. The focus certainly seems to be on the events planned for that day. Even today, I was told when to stand, when to sit, and what would be happening next. Nothing out of the ordinary. That’s what we do. But, if the greatest thing we have as we gather is each other, it does not seem like that element is being emphasized or facilitated in any way, does it? Do we make that a priority in our gatherings?

Some churches do this well. While maintaining a priority on the up-front events, they carve out a decent amount of time for people-connecting. Cross Creek is one such group. There is a time in the middle to get some coffee and just say hello to everyone. Theirs lasts perhaps 5-6 minutes. There has been a church or two along our path who has taken as much as 15 minutes for such an event. That’s great! But again, usually it is much less than 10% of the time we are together. Usually much less. Often there is a bit more time in the parking lot, or the lobby after the scheduled portion of the meeting is over, but too frequently, everyone has other things they need to get on to.

Please do not think I fault only those responsible for planning the church gatherings. I do not presume that they have so much influence over an entire culture. Certainly a good portion of the blame for a misplaced focus rests on those who “attend” these meetings. Arriving late (due to rousing and preparing a family of small children at such a time of the day, no doubt…) and getting everyone to their respective rooms, entering the main room just in time to sing the last song with everyone. Then sitting through the remaining portion of the show, taking notes and attempting to hear God’s truth for their personal life packed into about 45 minutes of one hour. As it’s over, the rush to pick up the kids ensues. After collecting them all, their tiredness, and crankiness overtakes your desire to connect with other believers, and you rush out the door to get home, or to do whatever else might be planned before you can go home.

Life these days is certainly a rush. That’s why we try and pack so much into a “worship service”. We “only have an hour a week to reach them”. That is the mentality in some circles. At least from the leadership position. Perhaps there is an equally sad mentality from the seats. “You only have one hour to reach me, God… so say something meaningful… and quick!

So while we go expecting to give to God, and him to us, we miss the joy of community. We miss perhaps the greatest part of “the church”. Not the building, the time, the meeting, or the organization. The people whom God has called to himself. From out of the world, into His Kingdom. The Believers. The Saints. The Called Out Ones. His Church.

Acts 4:32

All the believers were of one heart and mind, and they felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had.

Everything was about the oneness. Everything was about the togetherness. They loved being together. They shared everything. All the time. Acts 2 says they even went to the temple everyday to worship (as was their custom). They ate together, prayed together, shared meals together… even shared money. Life was about being together. And why not? The rest of the world hated them. The persecution was on a level that we can not comprehend in 21st century America. We have not, and perhaps will not experience such hardship. So to join together was an oasis in the desert. It was the living water of Jesus—his very body—together as one. How could they come together but once a week and then only to sit and listen to a presentation, with minimal participation, organized and performed by a select few? Where was the sharing of everything there?

No. Their focus was not on the schedule of a planned meeting. It was on each other. On their joys, on their hardships. On their shared journey with an amazing Father. That is where I find joy—even in as little time as is allotted for such—that is where I find joy when gathering with other believers.

Perhaps that is just me being the way God made me? Or, perhaps our focus is slightly shifted. What if we re-focused? What if our gatherings were not as much about the individual and God, but more about his children encouraging and exhorting each other? Wouldn’t that be as much (or more?) worship than listening to a carefully and wonderfully crafted hour of events?

Well, at least that’s how it looks through my lens.

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This post is a chapter in the book There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church by Greg Campbell, available through Amazon.com. If you’d like to purchase the book, please click the book title in the previous sentence. If you’d like a free PDF version, it is available here. Also have some of the audio version available at church.gregshead.net. Thanks for reading, sharing, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments below, or wherever else you can reach me.