For many people, church looks like this at the most basic level
Yet remember that the angel said to the women who went to find Jesus at the tomb –
The angel said to the women “Do not be afraid! I know that you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. Why are you looking among the dead for the living? He is not here – he has been resurrected!” (Condensed Gospel rendition)
The church as we know it is dying.
The Christian faith tradition must change what it looks at in order to survive. It must change from being a religion of rites and creeds.
It must stop being an institution focused on
the historical Jesus
and the future Jesus
and learn to BE Jesus right now,
to the people in the world.
It must stop the idea of “Bringing people to Jesus”
(preaching the Gospel)
and start living the idea of “Bringing Jesus to people”
(living the Gospel)
Many people have left church because they know that something is missing.
There are many large abandoned church buildings.
And at the center of them is the altar, a shrine to death, to sacrifice.
For many, church is a place of divine insight, of sudden epiphanies
But then when they leave, the everyday world is dull and boring.
For many, church is a sanctuary against the storms of life
But does this teach them to live in the world?
Perhaps Church can be seen as a boat, to rise above the dangerous waters, or to safely travel to visit or help others.
Each person gets their own boat. They learn how to row it themselves. They develop the strength to help themselves and to help others.
It is a place where we can each learn how to learn and grow safely. Others watch our progress and make sure we are not going to get hurt. They cheer us on.
It needs to be a place where we can learn that right here is where God meets us – that God loved us enough to come down to Earth to be with us and live among us. That God loves us enough to still be with us right now, right where we are. That God wants to work through us, and with us.
Church should be small, human sized.
It should be intimate and personal.
Why have we so long built churches that are immense, that dwarf us, that make us feel insignificant?
They feel lonely, cold, isolating.
They are out of proportion with us.
When God came to earth, God came as our size. The Temple is not a place, but within us.
Often churches are built far away, high up, hard to get to.
This is especially true of monasteries. They are places to retreat from the world.
Jesus tells his disciples that they are to be in the world – not apart from it. Jesus trained them to feed, to clothe, to help – everyone, not just those who are “in”.
For so many, God is seen as immense, and difficult to get to.
There are narrow paths, and gates, and boundaries in the way
We need to break apart the idea of church. We need to see through it, to reinvent it.
Even modern churches, while looking different, still have the perspective wrong. The focus is on the preacher – on one person. The people sit passively, staring in the same direction. If they speak at all, it is from a script (a hymnal, a prayer-book) Only one person is allowed to speak something different, to direct the service.
This sets up a hierarchy – of one person higher than the rest. This is directly opposed to what Jesus wanted, who wanted us to have only God above us. To have a person above us is to make them into an idol.
I’ve met many people who’ve left church for all of these reasons. They felt lost, alienated, alone. They too read the Gospel and met the real living Jesus and made a home for him in their hearts. They know that Jesus says that the Church is us – people, doing the will of God here in the world.
Yet, God says that people were not made to be alone. We are meant to be in community. We are meant to live and work and be together. No one person has everything required. We must work together.
Church needs to be all of us working together to help others. It isn’t a building or a place. But even if we remove the idea of the church being a building, we still have to remember the ideas that have long been part of church, so even when we take the Church out of the building, we must still make sure the old ways don’t come along.
It must be open to all.
It must be human-sized.
It must not be led by a single person – all must participate.
It must be a place where all can grow.
Again- it sounds like I’m talking about a place – an institution. I’m not. Certainly, people need to gather together occasionally. People cannot truly connect online. But, the money raised from members cannot go to a building or a salary. It cannot be inward-based. This will cause self-collapse, and is the opposite of what Jesus wants. The Church cannot support the church. The Church – the Body of Christ, must give aid to the world. That is where tithes must go. Outward.
People can meet in small groups, in each others’ homes.
They can meet in school gyms (they are not being used on the weekend)
They can meet in community centers or hotels.
There are plenty of already-built places that have meeting areas that are either free or inexpensive.
But when they meet, it must be a place to organize to go out into the world, to bring Jesus to people, by feeding, clothing, healing, visiting.
Not by preaching the Gospel,
but by living it.
(All pictures are from Pinterest)