Don't Go to Church; Be the Church
Two churches made headlines recently when they cancelled their Sunday morning church services. We did that not too long ago and there were no headlines… except for “Hurricane Irene Batters East Coast.” But New Life Church and Lincolnway Christian Church in Illinois didn't cancel their services because of bad weather; they cancelled services to encourage their members to spend their Sunday outside of their “church services” to engage in Christian service to people in their communities. So they served at grade schools (mulching, weeding, picking up garbage, etc.), shopping centers (free car washes), homeless shelters (serving meals) and low income neighborhoods (proving free home maintenance). The slogan on the T-shirt here says it all—“Don’t GO to church. BE the Church.”
One of our former elders liked to talk about people having limited amounts of “disposable time.” Granted, we often dispose of that time in non-productive ways (a euphemism for “watching TV”). But sometimes asking our members to be at “formal” church service 3-4 times a week leaves them with little time (or maybe “little perceived time”) for other Christian activities. This is especially true for people with children involved in sports and band and scouts and a lot of other great things that require large amounts of time acting as boosters and taxi drivers. We discussed at a recent leaders’ meeting the possibility of reallocating some of our meeting times (or parts of them) for more service-oriented activities. I got the general idea that many were both intrigued and disturbed-- what exactly is “forsaking the assembly” anyway?
The church certainly hasn't outgrown the need for “the assembly of the saints.” But maybe we need to mature to the point where we realize the PURPOSE of the “worship service.” We must not be “neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some” (Heb 10:25, ESV). But the end purpose of our meetings is to help us “think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works” (Heb 10:24, NLT). For too long, Christians have considered coming to church as their religious duty (see this previous post). In reality, our assembly to worship refocuses attention on the Kingship of God, and this allows us to be motivated to out serve our King. The “worship” part of the “worship service” takes place inside the assembly; the “service” part takes place only after we leave. In fact, the service we give to God outside of church is also our “true and proper worship” (Rom 12:2, NIV) or “spiritual worship” (ESV) or “this is truly the way to worship him” (NLT).
“Don’t GO to church; BE the church?” OK, maybe it should be don’t ONLY go to church; be the church. But I do like the idea of the church making that point by sometimes intentionally shuttering its building and shooing its members out into the community to serve.