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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Going to church??

I've been thinking a little lately about wine and wineskins. Jesus talked about this in Mark 2, among other places. Seems like Jesus was saying that the "new wine" of relationship with him, of community focused on him, has to be placed in "new wineskins" -- new practices and structures. To oversimplify, the Jesus-following church was going to look different than its Jewish roots.

I think that we have a similar problem when we think about "going to church." What most of us have experienced as going to church has little to do with what the New Testament describes as church. Not only are the wineskins radically different, but over time those wineskins -- the structures we put in place to do church -- begin to change the wine itself.

For example, for most of us, "going to church" involves getting in a car and driving to a building that has seating for a large number of people -- maybe a hundred, maybe a thousand, maybe more. We enter that building and are likely handed a booklet including a template for the worship experience. We go into a sanctuary and sit in rows of seats or pews that keep us more or less passive, facing a platform from which professional leaders sing, play, perform, preach, and pray. We sit in place as an offering plate or bag or bucket is passed by us and we may or may not put a contribution into it. Eventually the experience ends, and we file back out to our cars and drive home. This, we think, is "going to church."

Such an experience has very little to do with the New Testament vision of the church.

What kind of Christianity does this kind of going-to-church produce? Passive. Professionally led. Low commitment. Biblically illiterate. While there are glorious, glowing exceptions to these harsh words, look at the tendencies of the western church across North America, and you'll see my point. Mostly the glorious, glowing exceptions happen in places where this lowest-common-denominator of going to church is augmented by faith lived out in the home, mission acted out in the neighborhood, scripture studied and discussed and prayed over in a spiritually hungry group of people.

If you're curious about this, I had the privilege of preaching about some of it at The Open Door this morning. We were scheduled to have a great student choir called "On Call" leading worship but the blizzard prevented that, so Ryan and Daidre put together a great acoustic worship set at the last minute. If you want to skip past their excellent music, the sermon starts at about 24:00 and my final thoughts at 1:02:00. Here's the link to the sermon.

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