Thursday, April 02, 2009
“If all the churches in your community disappeared, what difference would it make?” I read this question this week and felt it worth exploring. If all the churches in Krum disappeared, what difference would it make?
Now, I don't know the inner workings of all the churches here, just the one where I serve. But I will affirm this: the people of every church in our community work diligently to add value to us. I know that people are fed and clothed, that sorrows are comforted, that joys are celebrated, that children are nurtured, that moral living is both modeled and taught, the Bible is read and studied, All powerful and important activities.
Yet, I know there must be something more. A church, not a building, but a group of people who meet regularly, do something that no other organization can do. A church gives a space to intentionally encounter the mystery of the universe that we call “God.” A church, not a building but the people who come together in some space, provide the setting to engage in acts of worship.
Worship is a difficult word to define. Many in the world today declare, “I'm spiritual but not religious.” I understand that sentiment—it affirms something that is true of all: a need deep inside us to connect with something far, far greater than we are. That spirituality springs from awareness that we humans have a tiny role in something much bigger than we are. A tiny role, but an important one, for the actions of any one person ultimately affect the lives of everyone. More than that, the word “religious” has taken on a difficult connotation, because much harm has been done in the name of religion. So has much good, but that good is often forgotten because the harm overshadows it. The harm done is generally more public, and shouted loudly about, while the good being done is hidden, quiet, unacknowledged.
So the “spiritual but not religious” person acknowledges the larger Something out there. The church, not the building but the people who make it up, provides a place for that spirituality to flower and bloom in community and connection and accountability and service and education and wisdom. Private spirituality is necessary and good. Private spirituality affirmed and shaped and expressed in a church, not the building but with the people who also practice private spirituality, then matures into the perfection defined by the perfect, that is, Jesus the Messiah. It is Jesus who told the spiritually-minded people of his day, “Love God with all that you are and love your neighbor in the same way you want to be loved.”
It is the act of public worship that ultimately the community can't do without. It is the open acknowledgment that God has a claim upon us and that claim includes us learning to love God fully. None of us in our human limitation can enter more than a tiny way into the hugeness of God. We're just not smart enough or good enough or even spiritual enough. However, in public worship, we can go much further than we can when we only exercise our spirituality in private.
What would happen if the churches here were to disappear? We would lose our souls. Our private spirituality would wither without nurture, and all would suffer. The church, not the building but the people who link together to grow mature in God, offer something that no other organization can offer: complete confidence in the future, for we know that God is good