I know I said I was trying to get away from ending titles with question marks, but perhaps it says something about where I am in life at the moment. Maybe as I begin the trek toward middle age (or, am I already there?) I am beginning to realize I have more questions than answers. Perhaps in truth, there really are fewer answers than we sometimes think there are.
This past week a couple things made me consider again why it is that we (the Campbells) “don’t go to church.” I have to put it in quotes because I just think that our phrasing leads us into bad thinking on the nature of the Church and corporate gatherings under the banner of “the church.” In scripture, the church is the people who belong to Jesus. It’s not a time, place, service, building, etc. It’s a people. So, by default, you can’t “go” to “church”. But, for the sake of this post, I will use the phrase “go to church” to mean attend a Sunday morning “worship” service.
A friend asked “what’s the deal with that?” regarding our not going to church, and as I was contemplating a response, I considered once again why don’t we go to church? There’s no harm in it – even if I think it’s not right and pointless… it wouldn’t kill us, would it? Couldn’t we get something good out of it? You’d think. But as I remembered recent times of attending such gatherings, I felt myself squirm a bit even as I simply recalled the events, thoughts, and emotions of the day.
Then I asked myself, “Why? Why does it bother me so much?” The only response I could come up with was that I have grown beyond that. That seems so arrogant, even as I type it, but it also seems to completely fit my understanding of the relationship that I have with my Father.
Allow me to explain.
Both Jen and I have come to a place where we really don’t like compartmentalizing life. We want to be who we are all the time. That applies to how we “educate” our children… there is not a specific time of “education”, but rather an environment of learning as you live everyday life. We teach as we go. And we go as we teach. The kids learn as they do, and ask to learn more.
It seems to be much the same with our relationship with God. Previously, our “spiritual life” could be a bit more easily identified as any times we were doing “God things”, like going to church, or other “church-related” activities, or reading our Bible, praying, singing, etc. Over the past couple years, we have tried to understand our relationship with Jesus as a very much more everyday thing. Everything we do involves him. There is no place we go to meet with him, since he is always with us. There is no time (necessarily) that is his, as he is always with us. All of life is accompanied by a friend whose level of intimacy with us can not be matched by any other person.
It just feels very odd then when we go to a place to “meet with” God… to “worship” him… and even at that place, there are times within the bigger time that we more “intentionally” meet with him. Add to that the bowing, and the standing, and even the slightly different language and tone of voice at times… all makes for a very strange experience.
I have learned to live every moment with God – the good and the bad – and have learned that his love penetrates all of that, and goes with me and before me. And it’s not just me… he loves everyone he has ever made just as much. I believe that his love for us actually draws us together. He wants us all to do life together, and so, just like he “brought [Eve] to the man” in Genesis chapter two… he brings his people together still. We don’t have to force it to happen.
The formality of our worship services – especially the way we address God, with whom I feel I have a very close, everyday relationship – just makes me feel very strange. It could certainly just be me. And I really don’t mean to imply what it seems I implied above, that all who attend such things do not have quite as good a relationship with their Father as I do. Not at all. I am just saying that for me, that is one of the big reasons it’s hard to attend those weekly (or more) gatherings.
And, I think I am pretty consistent in that area in that I really don’t like formality of any kind. I much prefer to just be who I am, and that you be who you are. Ceremonies of almost any kind are definitely not my cup of tea. 🙂
I’m not sure that I am right about this, and would love any feedback. Please don’t be offended by what I have posted here. Your thoughts are welcome.
For now, though… that is (at least partly) why we “don’t go to church.”