Have you been to church lately?
Hi, my name’s Ashley and if church is that place with a steeple or a big carved pulpit then no…I haven’t been to church lately. On the contrary, I see church as less of a place to go to than it is something to be. Church isn’t necessarily all about stained glass windows, a “worship” team and shiny polished wooden pews for me. They call me post-modern, emergent and a bunch of other things…but I’m just an ordinary Christian, a ragamuffin saved by God’s grace, displayed through his Son Jesus Christ.
I’ve had a storm of people challenge me with Hebrews 10:25, part of which warns believers not to neglect the gathering of the saints…but I believe that too? You see, I believe it of utmost importance that we as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ gather together in genuine and sincere fellowship, that we have real relationship and encourage one another as we seek God together…Only, this doesn’t need to happen within our elaborately constructed models of church and tradition. If we take a look at the Bible moving from OT through NT , we see how people built alters to God, then gathered together in tents, after that they built buildings to get together in. Getting into the New Testament we see the early church and their structures, or perhaps some of the house church styles of some of Paul’s letters. From a purely sociological perspective we see different people in different contexts forming culturally relevant ways of fellowshipping with each other. Looking at the story through a theological lens it’s even more interesting when we see the difference Jesus brings into the picture, God no longer dwells in mere temples built by man. Could we ever say that God is confined or limited to our particular structure, model, denomination, or “inter-denomination”?.
I have enjoyed the way it was put in the Lausanne Occasional Papers (Lausanne.org) that the local church is but a wineskin, a visible expression of the Church within society. If the local church is just a wineskin, then perhaps new wineskins are needed, maybe it’s okay for us to have new expressions or ways of doing church, worshipping God and seeking Him together.
I’ve searched in many places and maybe you could also at one stage have labelled me “disillusioned with the church” because I never seemed to find a fit. As opposed to being disillusioned, I’ve now learnt to appreciate what the rest of the family in the traditional church has to offer, but have also found an expression of “church” for myself. This thing called “church” happens for me every time I get together with another Christian and we have a heart to heart, when we seek God together and when we share of our experiences and encounters with God. It may happen at a friend’s home, in a local church service, walking to the store during lunch or even on a Thursday night at the Coffee Bean (quaint little restaurant in Rondebosch) – church is not limited by time or place. I call it a “lived theology”.
Emergent Christians have been seen as people who merely want a way of fellowship which suits them as an individual, but I think it’s much more than that, it’s about relationships, a deep sense of connectedness to God and to others. It is through genuine relationship that we can encourage and spur each other on. Structures are created to facilitate and foster such relationships, but oh how often they have actually impeded such development. As a Christian I desire to transform the context I am living in, to transform my environment…perhaps the public garden with its blue sky canopy which God created could be made as sacred a space as a stoned-walled church with decorative wooden beams?