Question Tuesday: Why Church?

Recently, ProdigalMagazine.org published a series called “Why Church?” that was really rather encouraging. Written from different perspectives, people with varied church experiences told their stories about why they go to church, why they love the church or love-hate the church, why they need church, and so on. (Now that the series has been finished for a few weeks, you kind of have to dig around to find all the stories. Here’s one of my favorites: “They Gave Me Jesus.”)

I loved it.

So today I’d like to ask you: Why church?

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4 Responses to Question Tuesday: Why Church?

  1. Rhett & Valerie says:

    “If God is your father then the church is your mother.” That’s what I’ve heard people say Calvin said. Not sure if it’s true, but I basically agree. We’re not meant to experience a relationship with God outside the Body of the church. I’ve never been in a perfect one, but I’m grateful for all of the ones I’ve been a part of.

  2. Why Church? Let’s be clear on the question. By “Church,” you (and the blog series’ creators) seem to be referring to any number of political institutions called “churches” in our world. I reject this definition of the word as far too narrow and limiting. The Church is the Body of Christ Universal – all believers everywhere and in whatever groups they gather in. This certainly includes, but is not limited to, those institutions.

    The Church exists whether defined within such constructs as denominations, pastorates, parishes, buildings and meeting times or not. No institution other than Christian community is necessary for the Church to be present and active. Conversely, a church entity may exist without being in any way connected to the Body (cf. Westboro Baptist Church). In my experience, I have found more healthy, life-giving expressions of the Body of Christ outside modern church institutions over the past decade than within them. That is not to say that these institutions are all evil or corrupt (though some certainly are), but that constructs of ministry and Christian community and especially definitions of what the Church is can no longer be so narrowly defined. As long as they are, doors to dynamic, whole-life engagement of faith–especially for those who inherently distrust institutional constructs–will remain closed.

    Why Church? Because the community of faith in Christ is enormous, beautiful, diverse and essential to well-lived faith. For me, though, institutions called “churches” in the modernistic sense are rarely a part of the equation. Why? Because I find it far more challenging and rewarding to integrate my faith into the whole of life without those organizations. Involvement with such groups has tended, in my experience, to create unhealthy dependency, disillusionment and disappointment and a constant battle against attending “The Jesus Show” every week without truly seeking after and being challenged by Christ. I’ve chosen to let go of that constant cognitive dissonance, the battle between faith and church politics and the false identity portrayed by most who engage in the Sunday ritual. The slope is too slippery and the price too steep if I fall into false religiosity. Instead, I find faith more vibrant when it must be constantly challenged and won, lived and breathed, sought and discovered.

    Churches as the modern world has defined them work for some and if you’re in one that is fostering true Christian community, stay with it. For me and many others, though, a living, whole-life faith asks us to seek other, more creative, less structured answers that keep us seeking hard after the Truth. No matter what structure or lack thereof you choose, if that is happening, if you’re pressing into Jesus in fellowship with others of his followers, you’re on the right path.

    • reneamac says:

      Thanks, Kevin. There’s much here I agree with. I do make a distinction–though in this post it isn’t very overt–between church (local) and Church (universal). One of the things I appreciate about the Anglican tradition I’m just now really getting to know, is its self-conscious placement of the local church within the broader Church around the world and throughout history; that indeed the church without the Church is limited.

      I also appreciate your making the distinction that just because a place and people call themselves a church does not mean they are Christ’s hands and feet to the world. And, I do sometimes wonder about the definition of local. In some sense, there is no local any more when we can almost instantly connect with sisters and brothers all over the world, people we’ve met in the flesh and those we have not. Presently, none of my closest and most faith-affirming relationships are with people who meet in the same time and place Sunday morning (though to be fair, I haven’t been there long enough for that yet, and this hasn’t been true in any other season of my life).

      And yet, I do wonder about the importance of physical locality, especially because we are embodied and we seem to need embodied practices to help us orient our lives/worship. Though I concede that might be more important/helpful for some than for others. I, for example, am largely a kinesthetic learner (one of the many ways in which I am quite average), and I need external structures to “make me” do stuff I’d rather be lazy about.

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