Today, many Christians, especially those under the age of 40, have difficult questions about the faith. They challenge assumptions taught by their parents or made by their parents. This is especially true of the assumptions about sexuality and racial justice. The process is known as “deconstruction”, a term borrowed from the philosopher Jacques Derrida and applied to faith by the theologian John Caputo.
Beliefs about sexuality and race are not the only ones to be deconstructed. So are beliefs about the church. Do people need to go to church? The answer is no, for people who are not Christians. For Christians, the answer is more complicated.
Most born-again Christians who self-identify and do not attend church have not concluded, based on theological reflection, that the church is useless. They are not deconstructing; they just deteriorate. Their reasons for not participating in corporate worship are often individualistic and consumerist: they don’t get enough of it to be worth it.
The idea that the value of corporate worship can be assessed using a consumerist scale should itself be deconstructed. It is not the result of theological reflection or of “the spirit of the Spirit”, but the result of American individualism and the spirit of mercantilism. The Bible tells a different story.
Theologian and biblical scholar Scot McKnight wrote: “There must be thousands of verses [in the Bible] for the community in each verse on the hereafter… From the book of Acts to the end of the book of Revelation, the gospel is the work of God to form the community.
“Community” is a buzzword, or perhaps a vague word, among Christians today. Everyone talks and searches for community, but many look outside the church, which they see as narrow-minded and irrelevant. Yet the church is the community of Jesus. There are no substitutes.
McKnight notes that “the apostle Paul went through the founding churches of the Mediterranean, and he wrote to churches and organized churches, and Peter and John did the same. The individualistic spirituality of our time has no equivalent in biblical literature. As McKnight says, “There is a lot of clergyman in the New Testament.
This does not mean that the church, whether in biblical times or in ours, is without problems. The church is full of trouble precisely because it’s full of people, broken people like you and me. But the restoration of broken people in the image of God and in a community of restored people – or, rather, a community of people who are restored – is the work of God. It is called the church.
There is much more to the church than “attending services”. The consumerist mindset that sees the local church as a place of entertainment open on Sunday mornings makes an authentic experience of church life nearly impossible. The church is not a sport spectacle, nor a concert, nor a TED religious conference. Meaningful church experience requires participation in a community.
Such participation involves both what one receives and what one gives. The apostles taught that God endowed each member of the church with the ability to contribute to the well-being of all others. The Bible calls this ability a spiritual gift.
Additionally, participating in church means serving, caring for, and helping others. The old word for it is “ministry”. In the church, every person is a minister.
Because everyone in the church is a broken but restored image of the Creator, participation requires patience. The apostolic letters to the churches are clear on this point: “Support one another. Forgive each other.
It is by serving one another, by supporting one another, by contributing to one another that the church becomes a communion of holy love, a community which embraces itself even in the most moments. complicated of life. This embrace allows a transformation process to take place both at the individual and at the corporate level.
This transformation is not happening to loyal consumerists but to participants. It doesn’t happen as much in going to church as it is in being church. It happens to people who embrace because they have embraced Jesus and the life – the transforming life – that he offers.
Shayne Looper is the pastor of Lockwood Community Church in Branch County. Learn more at shaynelooper.com.