“Looked like her lungs were full of glass”. That is how my nurse friend described the x-ray of a woman who recently died alone in a hospital room from COVID-19.
Has the government and media taken a low to mid-level concern and elevated it to Defcon 1? If so, why would they do such a thing? While, we seem somewhat divided on this debate, the purpose of this blog post is less about diving into that and more about the Church, professing Christians and the modern day church-goer’s response during this current crisis. And yes…all 3 need differentiated.
What is “church”? Let’s start there. I’ve heard some say it’s a “hospital”. I’ve heard others refer to as a party hall of sorts. There are those who see it as a country club. Some say it’s a place they go to to get fed spiritually. Others use it as their place of sole location for worship. Some view church as merely a place to find clarity. Others use it as a “worm on the hook” to lure sinners inside. Some see church as a way to support lavish lifestyles of pastors. Some see it as an event that must take place at least once a week. Others see it as a biblical obligation. Some folks see “church” as critical. Others do not. Some feel “church” is for weddings and baptisms only. Others see it as a chore to accomplish on Easter. Some see it as a stage to display their talents. Others see it as medicine for their soul. Some see it as place to gather to encourage and be encouraged. Others use “church” as the fuel they’ll need to drive them thru the upcoming week. Some see it as a place to meet good and positive people.
“Hey, you going to church tomorrow?”. “Hey, we missed you at church yesterday”. “Man, church was so good today, wasn’t it?”. “Can’t wait to wear my new dress to church on Easter Sunday!”. “I don’t like church. Too many hypocrites”. “Oh, you’re a Christian? What church you go to?”. “Why don’t you come to church with me sometime?”.
Post Christ’s death, the Romans’ aim was to eradicate Christianity altogether. Their relentless efforts pushed Christians underground. But, the phenomenon was…the Christian population only grew! 300 years later, Emperor Constantine enters the picture. He not only declared that Christianity would be tolerated, but he would create a place that all Christians were to gather for corporate worship. Christians left the underground for a stand-alone building. And just like that…Constantine single-handedly turned “church” into an institution.
I think this all matters, in order to set the table, so-to-speak.
Somewhere along the way, it went from “We are the Church” to “Let’s go to church”. This is a much bigger problem than we give it credit for. Our focus almost entirely shifted from making disciples to the action that takes place inside the steepled building. Our faith’s peak became predicated on a touching sermon or an emotional song. It became less about fellowship and more about entertainment and attaining a feeling or sense of accomplishment from attending. We disguise our gathering as “fellowship”, but typically it’s just a show for spectators to watch from seats facing a stage. The lighting is Hollywood-like. The sound system could double as concert equipment. The decor stimulates a desired mood. The building itself is seen as a house suited for God’s dwelling, as if God takes up residency in a place that man has crafted.
Many people’s favorite scripture passages can be found in John 3:16 or Jeremiah 29:11. But, not mine. No. My favorite verse is Matthew 28:19 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make church-goers of all the nations…”. You might know that passage? Something wrong with that scripture? What do you mean it’s suppose to say “disciples” instead of “church-goers? How dare you attempt to correct God’s words! Oh…wait…God didn’t write that. The modern day “Christian” penned that in.
Let me circle back for a minute. When Constantine institutionalized church, paid clergy became a thing. While that might make some business sense, it doesn’t work well with personal spiritual responsibility. You see, once paid clergy took the script, the lay person took their seat in the audience. Now, in order to make a disciple or carry a voice in the religious realm, you must have a college education or draw a paycheck from a church. This brings relief to a church-goer because it eliminates the possibility for rejection and uncomfortable obligation.
So, why am I saying all of this? Well, simply put…I am appalled by what I’m hearing from some pastors and their followers. They are screaming “THE GOV’T IS TRYING TO TAKE OUR FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS AWAY!” and “WE CAN’T FOLLOW THESE NO-GATHERING ORDERS LIKE BLIND SHEEP!” and “OUR FAITH IS BEING THREATENED!”. Let me preface this by saying that those who are proclaiming such things only represent a very small percentage of pastors/clergy/lay people. What I think most are really on edge about though, is that their comfortable little Sunday production has been disturbed. Some are angry that they don’t get to be featured during a morning service and hear “Wow, Pastor. What a fantastic sermon you just delivered!”. And dare I say it? Many are angry that the usual tithe has been hampered/interrupted. I mean, how will they fund elaborate additions and upgrades to their already breathtaking sanctuaries? However, perhaps the best theory I can conjure up for why the current panic, is that maybe, just maybe, preachers and professing Christians have made the act of going to church their center – their God – instead of making Christ and God their core? When you see what you do on a Sunday morning inside of a church building your sole act of faith exercise, then you will feel it has ripped your soul out entirely when it’s forbidden to do so. I’ll just go ahead and say it. Going to church for an hour or 2 on a single day of the week has become the 2020 definition of “Christian”. Perhaps we should coin a new term “Churchianity”? Ehhh…maybe it’s what William Booth said, it’s Christianity without Christ.
Oh my. Some will be so mad at me for saying all of this and you can tell how much I care about that by the fact that I still hit the “Publish” button. This all needs to be unearthed and addressed and what better time to do it then during a point where we are being forced to become mobile, resourceful and creative, just as the early Church was. I mean, I am a Believer and a disciple and I in no way feel like I’m being persecuted. I am not feeling like “they” are targeting me. No one is pounding at my door, forcing me to surrender my Bibles or threatening to seize my laptop when I Zoom an online spiritual gathering. Some people’s self-righteousness is leading them down a very scary path. If “church” to you is an merely an event on Sunday morning in a particular building, then yes…I see why your big ol’ bloomers are all knotted-up. But, if you are a true disciple of Jesus and you love Him and humankind (our neighbors), then you might actually be pumped to do things a bit unconventionally. What about being a disciple is comfortable? A church-goer is nice and comfy, though. You budget your 10% tithe, you sit in the same seat each week and you wait to be entertained by preacher and program. But, a disciple (as the Bible depicts it) lives a more uncomfortable and unpredictable life. Life is risky and requires walking by faith. You’re determined to find fellowship beyond an established building and your excited at the opportunity to “go”.
Let me say this as clearly and as bluntly as I possibly can say it. Many churches are actually counterproductive in making disciples for Christ. I’ll repeat it because I’m not sure I can trust some of you to track back. Many churches are actually counterproductive in making disciples for Christ. These churches that I am referring to have removed the need to live by faith. They teach that the pinnacle of one’s walk with God takes place in a building made by human hands. They refer to worship only when speaking of singing songs in that same building. The word “disciple” is only mentioned when referring to men who lived long ago. These churches needed upended and my prayer is that they do not return to their former state. But tragically…I fear many will.
No, I am not “anti-tithing”, nor am I “anti-assembling”. Offfffffff COURSE we wanna gather together face to face. Offfffffff COURSE we wanna hug and shake hands and corporately worship and receive a piece of candy from that old creepy guy that never seems to run out candy. That’s in us (except for that last one lol)! But, we are being asked to move from that for a bit in order to bring relief to hospitals and our heroic healthcare staff. Nowhere do I find an order that says “Christians (and the like) must not practice their faith during this pandemic”. It isn’t persecution. Don’t be foolish. What it is though, is an attempt to save real lives and prevent as many people from dying alone in a hospital room as we possibly can.
My spirit is renewed by those Believers who still find ways to meet and yet still keep their distance. I am inspired by the loving acts of real Christians who are taking care of the most vulnerable (as Jesus would be doing). I’ve enjoyed meeting with other believers virtually, sharing stories, challenging one another, praying, being prayed for, encouraging and being encouraged. After all, that’s exactly what the early Church’s gatherings intended to do and undeniably accomplished.
How dare you spend this time that you’ve been afforded to fight a fight that is emphatically pointless to fight! How dare you waste your life and lead others down a path that leads to nowhere! Perhaps it’s long overdue for you to redefine what “church” really is and means. And please tell me that you aren’t solely relying on 2 hours on a Sunday morning inside a piece of human architecture to feed your soul or to “feel Christian”. If you would answer “yes” to this, then the time you’re wasting crying “PERSECUTION!” is misplaced and your attention should be redirected inwardly. Maybe it’s time to get back to basics and shed what you’ve accepted as being “normal” and “right”? Now, before you go gettin’ all defensive, do me a favor and at least internalize this for a few. Not all of this can be wrong…can it?
Some of your gatherings are doing it right. They are Christ-centered and not entertainment-based. You’ve placed Christ at the center and intentionally keep Him there. You are disciple factories. You wield the type of love that Jesus displayed always. You realize that the work is done beyond the 4 walls of building, but you won’t fail to assemble together. You are about Kingdom work; not about building your own little domains. I thank God for you all. I really do. Please keep doing what you are doing. I pray that you won’t grow weary.
The Church done left the buildin’. Let’s see these funky times as the nudge I think we all so desperately needed and make the absolute most of it.
[feel free to comment and share your thoughts]