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31 October 2010

"Go To Church" - Really?

If this looks familiar, you're not nuts. This post was originally written a little over a year ago.

I've tried several times to adequately put into words why I believe that our misuse of the word "church" is not only evidence of incorrect thinking, but it severely undermines our understanding of who we are and who we're called to be. The problem is, I tend to come off as someone who's splitting hairs.

So I'll try this once more. Your responses and reactions are welcomed.

Which one of us would say, "Thank goodness it's Friday! I'm looking forward to going to 'family' and crashing in the recliner." Of course, you might say, "It's family night," but in doing so you wouldn't be thinking of your family as an activity. You'd be describing and thinking of a group of people.

Splitting hairs? Isn't it at least a little bit odd that out of 118 uses of the Greek word "ekklesia" (which is translated "church") in the New Testament, not a single usage refers to an activity? Each refers to a collective group of believers. (note: some manuscripts claim 111 uses, and in three cases it may be tenuously argued that the word means something vaguely like a verb)

As we've done with the word "witness," with incredible effectiveness, we've confined "church" to an event that occurs in a designated, finite time and space. We no longer think of "church" as a family of believers. Instead we think of it as an event or activity in which we have the option to participate or not. Further, we're encouraged to bring as many non-believers as possible to these events so that they can listen to the pastor and get saved.

At the very least, here's what we've done in the above paragraph:
  • Removed the bond of family from the body of believers. "Church" is not a unit now; it is an event.
  • Acknowledged that our off-hours (if we consider Sunday morning only) -- the other 166 hours of the week, literally 98.9% -- do not include "church"
  • Assigned our command from Jesus Christ -- to be witnesses -- to be handled by a professional Christian
  • Reassigned ourselves from the task of going and making disciples to inviting people to sit with us and hoping that they become disciples
Whether or not we'd like to admit it, these lines of thought come directly from the understanding we now have of "church". Our incorrect use of this word simply and accurately represents how we view ourselves. How pervasive is this thinking? Do a Google image search for the word and you'll see what it means not only to believers, but to the rest of the world.

If we've given this word a new meaning, how then do we refer to the actual ekklesia? (I'd venture to say that we don't refer to it very often.)

As a side note, piggy-backing onto my post about teens giving up on Christianity, if this is all that they think church is, is it really all that surprising that teens find nothing life-changing about it, or even that they might find the whole thing boring?


Tony M said...

I think this is probably more of the "confuser" attempting to misguide the church (meant as the body of Christ) and misdirect them (us) such that we are not accomplishing the will of the Father - that is, making disciples. (As an aside: probably there are times that phrases like "family night" - or "family time" - do, in fact, refer to the "family" as an activity, rather than a cohesive body. This, too, is likely another tool in the deceiver's toolkit to misdirect us all away from what's really important; instead of family being family, it's all "me, me, me" - and some time with "family.")

On the other hand, could the use of "go to church" not be intended to be the original Greek wording? I.e., "to church" = "to the building where the church family meets" - and "church family" is the "equivalent" phrase that intends to translate the Greek "ekklesia"?

On the other hand (feeling a little like Reb Tevia now), even if "to church" = "to the church building" - could that still be a deceptive practice of the antichrist(s) of our world? And, another aside, I've no doubt that we're relegating the "make disciples" and "be witnesses" to our "professional Christians" (pastors, leaders, etc.). One of the things I like about my pastor is that he's all about equipping the church (that is, the people in the pews) to do just that: make disciples. That, he'll quickly admit, is our purpose as a church, the body of Christ, His disciples - to make disciples. And, he'll also admit, we're not doing a good job, and we need to get to it.

On the other hand, what do I know? Just offering some opinions. :)

M said...

All I have to say is I agree with ya Dean! :)

John King said...

"Tony" on the other hand.........sorry I love you brother an you crack me up. I too agree.
i'd like to just say something about the teens. When I was in a church. I love kids. Im a kid...So I always tried to interact with them on there level. Which is higher than mine so keeping up...
One issue. The kids hear mom an dad or whoever say things about the church they cant understand at there age. So confussion is also a major reason we lose our teens at 18. If we dont lead by example. Dont expect the teens too. There not dumb. Whats the answer. First there is none. Except that. Now what do you do about it. thats the answer. We must make the children priorties in church. Look how much we spoil our kid due to love. But when it comes to church. They get left in others hands an we dont oversee it.
Closing example, playing my drums in a big church was for some kids like candy at church. Kids like the drums. I knew this. I wasn't glorifying myself to these kids. But lifting them up to want to come to church. for more candy. I can only offer so much of the gifts God has given me to spark kids to come to church. You have the other gifts. If we All share our gifts. We will Glorify God. An our children on everyday of the week will walk on his path with us. Not behind us. Not ahead of us, But Right beside us. All together Men Women an Children.

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