Sunday, August 01, 2010

Where’s the Church Building?

This past Saturday morning was spent at the Children's Home in Albuquerque. The summer clean up was in preparation for the two week nigh annual open house and barbeque at the home. This day there were about sixty people from a local congregation helping weed, move rock, and generally spruce up the entire campus. Great folks all, and I'm sure they were a bit sore come Sunday morning.

One of the people who came to help was a boy of about seven years who helped clear some of the larger weeds from a fallow section of the campus. As we worked on removing Russian Thistles, he said that tomorrow is church. Having sixty of his fellow church goers on campus, in turn assisting a Christian organization accomplish tasks too large for the staff to do by themselves, I observed that he was in church right now. Understandably, his retort was "where's the church building?"

As I was readying a short instruction on "church" and community, someone yelled that it was time for the group picture across campus and my interlocutor took off to have his picture taken. I guess pictures of such events are important but I missed the chance to broaden this young man's understanding of church as something more than Sunday morning meetings.

It occurs to me that even this well meaning group of Christians, who have elected to put their faith to work still struggle with teaching what church really is. Somehow this seven year old had gotten hold of the idea that church was done at a building on Sundays. I don't suppose he's much different than many adults who also seem to think that a building on Sunday morning is the place where the church does its thing.

This is a tragic occurrence because it results in an artificial and inaccurate understanding of our common faith. We can see this in major church splits when one side or the other will sue the opposing group for anything from the property, to the cash in the bank, to the parsonage. There are myriad reasons used to justify this behavior but one commonly used is that "we aren't suing brothers and sisters, we are suing the legal entity called the Main Street Church." It never dawns on them that this obfuscation doesn't excuse their behavior. This artificiality also allows us to argue over things because they have to do with the "church." At least one Baptist church of which I'm aware had an argument when they decided to add a drum set to the band. This apparently was going too far, changing the music from sacred to well, pedestrian. Not that anybody objected to drums per se – just not in "church" thank you very much. Christians go to church together on Sundays and then argue with and sue each other on Monday because apparently on Monday, we're not in "church."

In my own world this plays out in a number of ways – what women can and can't do in worship, what sorts of religious items can be on the stage, or even whether the praise team should have microphones and where they should sit or stand. All these discussions take on an air of more gravity because they have to do with "church." If we would learn that "church" isn't primarily Sunday morning, we might begin to get our priorities more in line with God and quit beating each other up because we've been wronged or think we might be.

Maybe.

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