Friday, October 19, 2012

Why 'Going to Church' should be banned

Maybe it was a bad day, but I couldn't get this train of thought out of my mind recently. It struck me that the phrase 'going to church' really ought to be removed from our language. Let me explain:

The first thing I have against it, is that it carries with it the idea that Church is a building. One of the most frequently used lines in any Christian preaching/teaching/education about the Christian faith must be something like: "Church is the people, not the building", but the heresy persists. Church buildings may be lovely, ugly, inspirational, dull, ornate or simple, but they aren't Church. Church is the community of people who follow Jesus, and buildings are buildings. It's easy to work out the difference, really.

The second thing I have against the phrase 'going to church' is that implies that church is an event which only happens in certain locations and at certain times, like a film at the cinema. You can go to corporate worship  - that fits that description to some degree, but not to church. Being church is a continuous and permanent state, which the world is invited to share in; going to church is a slot in the diary or an entry on your calendar. Church doesn't start at 10 and finish at 11.15 only on Sundays, Christians are the Church all the time and everywhere.

That takes me to the third step, which is that church isn't something which is 'over there', and which I need to go to. Christians - people who have chosen to follow Jesus - are the Church, whether gathered or not, whether present in an ecclesiastical building or not. For Christians, church isn't something you go to; it's something you are, and which you are involved in gathering together when you attend any shared communal activities of the church community. Where is church? It's here, and wherever Christians are.

A fourth and related point is that 'going to church' reinforces in people's minds that corporate worship is the sum total of what the church is and does. Church is also fellowship, pastoral care, clubs and groups, sharing and learning together, serving the community, as well as being Christian in everyday lives, homes, jobs, schools and families.

OK. I'm not really going to get the phrase banned, but I still live in hope that we maintain a bigger vision of what church should be.


Anonymous said...

I think your getting confused by the word church and Christianity

Michael Gradwell said...

I am sure that you are not confused between 'the word church and Christianity' as Anonymous suggests. However Anonymous (why are they always anonymous) could do worse than looking at the difference between Church and church.

I have lived in east Lancashire for over 20 years and so have no problem with the phrase 'going to church'. You often don't hear the definite article and going to the church would solve problem one as they are going to a building. In this sense they are going to a celebration rather than an institution which solves problem two.

The third step is simply clarifying the difference between church and Church. I am sure you don't fall into the category of those who believe that going to church is the sum total of what the church is and does, and neither does your congregation.

I agree that many may be confused and it sounds like the message hasn't carried to Anonymous.