*Part 1 of 4 in a new blog series by Matt Bridges
Don’t Go To Church!
Consider the following phrases
-Go to church.
-Going to church.
-Went to church.
-Don’t go to that church. They’re [boring, too churchy, too hipster, too contemporary, too traditional……].
-Where do you go to church?
-We go here.
-I used to go to that church, but they just weren’t feeding me anymore.
-Parents go to “Big Church” and children go to “Children’s Church.”
-I have to go to church later.
-Be sure to invite someone to church.
-Wow, church was awesome today.
-Wow, church was bad today.
-Meh, church is boring and that’s why I don’t go.
-Oh man, you got churched!
-I can have church anywhere and at any time, why do I have to go there?
-I have church by myself in nature.
-“I’m spiritual but not religious, and so that’s why I don’t go to church.”
-“I don’t fit in at that church.”
-Oh, come to my church, you’ll fit in great there.
-Worship at the church of your choice.
-I make this place my church.
“The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple, the church is not a resting place, the church is a people.” If you “go to church” and sing this song and believe the words, then you are in the midst of an ironic situation. You are embracing that the church is not a building but a people, yet you “go” to church. What has happened in this situation is that you have substituted one meaning for another.
It’s often easier to say “I’m going to church” because we all seem to know what that means. These kinds of phrases are comfortable to say. They’re quick and easy and it’s easier to assume people know what you are referring to. But in the mixing of these meanings for the same term, we have come to where we have lost the original and basic meaning in how we talk about church—if not lost, at least favored one meaning over another by how we use the term. We make basic assumptions of people when we use that word and our response if questioned might be “well, of course we know the difference.” Also, in the uses of this word “church,” assumptions are imposed upon us too. Just as we create and use definitions through experience and impose those definitions on others, the same thing happens to us. With a word like “church,” the definitions and assumptions imposed can really make a difference.
Can’t we just keep expanding our definition and understanding of this word to incorporate new meanings to this word? I mean, aren’t we still using a good word to reach out to people to know God? Well, yes and no. I don’t look at using this word “church” in a way to show “good” versus “bad.” It’s definitely not that simple. I also don’t think the word is static and should be above change. I want to look rather at the word itself and ponder some of the potential consequences—healthy and unhealthy—of expanding a definition and usage of a word past its original meaning. Can the word “church” be used in a lot of different ways? Yes. Should it? Perhaps. But at what cost to the church? The cost is important when we think of how believers might identify themselves as followers of Christ and part of the church. Let’s explore the word by itself and how it came to be. And in exploring this word, maybe we can see healthy and unhealthy implications and reclaim what perhaps has been lost in living our faith day to day.
*Stay Tuned for
Part 2 Nov 8 “Breaking Down The Word: What’s the Big Deal?
Part 3 Nov 15 “Okay, So What?”
Part 4 Nov 22 “So What Do We Do?”
Matt Bridges is an ordained elder in the United Methodist church and currently serves in New Mexico as the pastor of First United Methodist Church in Lovington. Matt has served in ministry in one form or another for the last seventeen years. In particular, he has a passion for music ministry and other types of worship ministry. In all of the things he’s learned in ministry, if he were to write a book on worship right now it would most certainly be titled 1001 Times (and counting) I said “Well, I’ll Never Do It That Way Again” in Worship. He is joined in ministry by his wife, Corinne, and daughter Emilie. And they all love being the church together.