this fall has brought many changes to my life. like the leaves falling from trees, long standing parts of my life have fallen away. I have gone through major changes in the areas of church and working with youth. specifically I am not doing the first anymore and I have moved my work in the second area to the ice as I have begun coaching sledge hockey this fall.
the move into coaching actually led to no longer going to church as there was a scheduling conflict. however the decision to stop attending a weekly service has proven to be an area of much discussion and thought for me.
the initial reaction of most people was simple concern that I would not be participating in a weekly ritual. common responses were “maybe you can find a service at some other time.” the thing that was most entertaining to me about this was that most would then go on to tell me that without church I would be missing out on important community time, yet their reaction was to send me off to another community that has an alternate meeting time. while I suppose one could say that all churches are part of the same “global community” that would just be simple justification of a much greater issue.
first I will say that the church that I attended was by far the best example of a church that I have ever seen or participated in. the more I talk to friends about other church experiences the more thankful I am for the church I was/am a part of. I include this disclaimer because I am not suggesting that I am looking for another church to participate in. I am going to address the very institution that we have created in the church. a second more general disclaimer that I will make now is that this will probably upset or offend some people. this is the intention, it isn’t to be seen as a personal attack on anyone though, more an educational attack.
I titled this post institution of man simply because that is what the church is. I am aware that pretty much everyone will disagree with me on this point but I would suggest that is because of two things. it isn’t what the church is supposed to be and that people are very good at deluding themselves when necessary. church can be simplified to a collection of traditions and processes that have been collected over 2000 years and practiced because they are the “right thing” to do. of course most people reference scripture as the basis for many things, which in and of itself is fine, but the problem lies in the attitude. while scriptures provide examples and instruction they were written at a different time, to a different people, by authors who have a long dead mindset. this does not invalidate the truths contained however it does mean that our application of those truths is based on our own human interpretation of those truths. this human element is a beautiful facet of christianity and should be celebrated. the problem arises with the human attitudes that accompany the interpretation and application.
the attitude of many christians has become one of superiority. if you don’t follow a specific set of guidelines, adherences, etc then you are missing out or that you will be unable to grow in faith or relationship with god. this of course is a foolish place to reach. considering that many of the practices that are considered integral to the church have no foundation in the bible. things like organs, the music of many popular hymns for example began life as tavern music that the church adapted to stay relevant and engage people. so today when churches face resist things like new music or repurposing rooms in their churches it is simply due to selfish stubbornness. interesting the bible does directly address this kind of behavior. in colossians 2 Paul is writing to the church at laodicea (troublesome bunch they are) and he warns them specifically to make sure they do not get lost in man made philosophy or tradition (v8). this is a wonderful idea that is too often ignored by the church. Paul is teaching that we can develop a strong faith system, and that we can even utilize ideas and traditions created by man, however we need to be careful as to how tightly we hold on to them so they do not become our undoing.
so what does this mean for the church. I would never suggest that we shouldn’t be meeting as a body of christians. the problem as I see it is that church is happening because we are supposed to have church. this of course is not a valid motivation or starting point for anything of value. when looking at the early formation of the church we don’t find a group of people that said “well all other religions have gatherings so we should too!” instead you find a group of people who have hearts that are concerned with the well being of others. what we know as church happens to be a natural side effect of their heart and mind set. this of course is not something you can found a church on, in fact it is quite the opposite since no church is founded, one just happens.
so this is where I am at. I really do believe that the current system is beyond repair. that is the nature of a man made system. the foundations of the system have fallen into such disrepair that there can be no fix. I do not have any idea what the new system should look like, but I do honestly believe that the religion that has been created is doing a lot of harm to a lot of people. this of course is not a popular idea and is often met with the idea that we need to be considerate of the beliefs and practices of others, not wanting to offend them. while I think that approach has value in some situations this is not one of them. when Jesus entered the temple to find it corrupted by the business people and rif-raff of the time he didn’t stop to consider their feelings or how the ended up justifying the practice they were participating in. no, he started throwing tables. throwing tables!
tables need to be thrown. attitudes need to be discarded. interpretations need to be exposed for what they are – interpretations, not truths.
above all faith is about love, a deep mystifying love. not rules.