It's Sunday morning. You walk through those double doors with your bible in one hand and your iPhone in the other, practicing your smile and trying to "leave this week at the doors so you can worship freely." But as the first song begins to play, you can't hear what the worship leader is saying because the guilt and shame and baggage of your week is loudly clashing and clanging around your mind.
But you keep smiling, because maybe if you smile long enough, no one will guess what's really going on inside your head.
The band is transitioning to song three by now, you know, the one that you're supposed to "make your prayer"? But praying is the last thing you want to do.
You can't talk to God like this!
Maybe next week.
You'll do better next week.
Is this what Church is? A place where the guilty are inhibited to worship?
"What if the Church could really be what it was meant to be?" Isn't that the question we're asking? What if we were actually a place of love and refuge for all?
A legitimate question. But maybe we're asking the wrong question. Maybe we've been focusing too closely on the strategies (successful or failed) of HOW to be this Church instead of seeing WHY we need to be this Church.
Let's look back for some perspective.
The act of "going to church" comes from the 1st Century gathering of Jesus' disciples and those who had heard about Him rising from the dead. They met together out of both desire and necessity.
Desire, so they build community, accountability and stability in their lives as Christians. (Acts 2:42-47)
Necessity, because they recognized this life of a Christian was impossible to live out alone. (Colossians 3)
They needed each other. (Galatians 6:2, Romans 12:3-13, 1 Thessalonians 5:14)
"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." Hebrews 10:24-25
Nothing about that has changed from then to now. The human condition is still the same. There was sin then and there is sin now. There was shame and fear then and there is shame and fear now. Just because the first gatherings of people who dubbed the name "Church" were closer to the life of Jesus, didn't mean they were less human or more holy.
They knew the primary goal of their gathering was to encourage, equip, and evangelize; not to erase sin. According to them, Jesus already did that! (Ephesians 4)
According to them, Jesus' life, death and resurrection was SO THAT we (us and them) could live with no inhibition in this life. It was so we could freely move about in this world, as image bearers of God almighty, illuminating the ground we walk upon. (John 10:1-10, Galatians 5)
The Gospel, the greatest news of our existence, is as true and simple and real and powerful now as it was then:
If you confess with your words that Jesus is Lord, the Son of God, and believe with your heart (kardia: the heart, mind, character, will, inner self, intention, center) that God raised Him from the dead, after dying to pay the debt of mankind, you are saved. For with the heart a person believes, resulting in a right standing with God, and with their mouth they confess their inability to ever be good enough for God's approval on their own, resulting in their salvation (Paraphrased from Romans 10:9-10)
No more masks, because we all have a reason to wear one. (Tweet that!)
No more fake smiles, because life is more miserable as a fake, and we've all got something to fake.
What if the Church continued it's journey, as flawed and broken as it may be, towards the WHY and away from the polished HOW we feel we need to create. (Click to tweet.)
What if God's intention for the Church was never to "arrive," but to "thrive" in the journey of discovery?
What if we step back and see, really see the generations before us and after us for who they really are?
What if we could answer the WHY of Church, together?
What could happen then?
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It's scary to be real, but someone's got to make the first move. Let's (and by let's I mean you and me!) be bold this weekend. Don't fake it. Talk to someone. Pray with someone. Tell your story and ask theirs and see how the flood gates open up.
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This post is part of a week long series of letters to the people of the Church. Read the rest of the letters here.