There’s an interesting post today at Experimental Theology called Loneliness and the Church. I’ve read it a couple of times, and I’m still not sure what I think about it. Here’s an excerpt:
In short, we need to think of churches as moral rather than social communities. When I go to church I need to have ethics on the brain and not intimacy. This, I think, is a huge problem with many churches. People go to church to have their relational needs met. They don’t go to get morally challenged or changed. Thus, if I have a good social time at church then church is great and fulfilling. Conversely, if church is a lonely affair I stop going and think it sucks.
The goal of church, to my mind, is to be better, not to be known. Of course, in the effort to become better I become known. I’ll need to confess and ask forgiveness. I’ll need to give an honest moral accounting of myself. And so on. These things promote community and camaraderie and even friendship.
On one hand, church is not a social club. On the other hand, it’s actually more – it’s family. Shouldn’t we feel like we belong? Shouldn’t we feel as connected as Paul says we are? Is church primarily about becoming more moral people? Is Christianity primarily “sin management” or perhaps working your way to some higher state of holiness? Even if it is, which comes first? Are we drawn by the Spirit (present in the Church) closer to God, or do we have to get closer to God – as the author suggests – to get closer to people?
Of course, your answer will depend upon your theological foundation; at least I think so. Lutherans, for example, hear the words of absolution within the first few minutes of the liturgy. Other traditions never hear absolution; they keep folks working till the moment they die (and Catholics keep them working even after that). How we feel about the origins of morality determine whether we’re interested in the subject at all.
What do you think?
A wise friend of mine once said, “there is much more to the Christian life than simply not sinning.” I very much agree. As I see it, Christ died to settle the issue of sin so that we could move on to knowing God and bringing his kingdom.
Of course we will struggle with sin, but it is no longer the main issue. This will be shocking news to some, and a great relief to others. To remain in a moral focus as a Christian is, in my opinion to underestimate the cross and slight the object of our affection. It can even come dangerously close to the stance of those in Galatia whom Paul warned of falling from grace.
We are free to move on to “glorifying God and enjoying him forever.” In my view, this means that the church, far from being a morality booster, is actually the place where through our interactions with one another we are equipped to bring the gospel to the world.
I think the goal is to be present to hear the Word and recieve the Sacrament (visable Word).
It’s a good place to encourage each other in our Christian lives.
God commands that we be there. I’m sure He will create what He is after.
Funny that this is on your brain, I am speaking on this tomorrow at youth group.
My take on it is based on the Acts 2:42-47 presentation of the Church. The focus to me is on being together and developing a community centered on Christ. While “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching”, the primary focus seems to be on living with each other and tending to one another.
PS. An interesting sidenote, I found this the weekend before last and have been praying this over my kids–it is crazy that I haven’t heard it before talking about spiritual adoption:
Psalms 68:5-6b A father to the fatherless,
a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
6 God sets the lonely in families,
he leads forth the prisoners with singing