What have we done to church? I'm no biblical scholar, but I am a man who is trying every day to follow God. This topic and those related to it are very close to my heart. I'll probably write more on it later, but this is just a sampling of my thoughts.
1. What Was the Church?
The body of Christ.
I'm no biblical or historical scholar, and I'm not an expert on languages, translations, and etymology. But my understanding of the "church" mentioned in the New Testament is that it is the body of Christ. I don't remember ever seeing in the bible a mention of the church as a building where they gathered. Among the church, or body, of Christ, each person had a role and function (see Romans 12). As the church in Corinth demonstrated, people from all walks of life existed together. Not only that, they broke bread together, they dined together, and, as a minority with their lives on the line because they dedicated themselves to Christ, they suffered together.
Our "church" is like a lot of houses in Waco, Texas now: some are brokedown versions of themselves while others just have the steps leading to the frontdoor where the house once lived. Church is a place we go now. The meaning has changed. That's okay. The problem is that we have changed, too. Our intellects have gotten in the way of the Spirit. Our individualist mindset has destroyed our community. We have friends at church, but very few are family let alone parts of the same body -- closer than just a family member. Our relationships throughout the week have been replaced by singing and lectures once or twice a week. Which brings us to the next point:
2. Gimmicks Don't Work
I was going to say, "Jesus didn't do gimmicks." But I guess a miracle is kinda like a gimmick. Have you seen any gimmicks like that lately? Probably not. And he was always going to dinner and just hanging out with people. The gimmicks we do make us feel so creative, but a gimmick doesn't show love. You have to have a relationship for that.
At my old church, the Round Rock Church of Christ, basketball goals were recently installed for neighborhood kids. Balls were left out. And then what happened? Our neighbors played on those goals. So far I hear that is it. Now what?
When we went to Thailand, several of our friends shared stories about how they became Christians. One friend talked about being so scared of Christians at an English camp that he and friends crouched in the cabins hiding because they were scared about what the Christians were going to do or make them do next. All of them said it was the relationship they developed with people at the church. That is how they learned about Jesus.
Now we just need more ways to do this, such as:
3. Carpool to church?
Save gas, save close parking for those who need it, and, most importantly, build relationships. Distance doesn't matter, relationships do. I've been trying, slowly, to get this started at Preston Road. Our neighborhood has plenty of parking issues and two services is not the answer.
With carpooling, you get to spend time with the people you sit next to in church. It's definitely not the most convenient, and sometimes you might go out of the way to get there. But we need to remember, there are more important things than our convenience. It's true, America.
It's time to change our definition of church back to what it used to mean. We are the body of Christ. We need to stop wasting our creativity on gimmicks [and bad Christian goods], and start getting creative with how we are going to spend more time with the body.