Finding Faith: The meaning of 'church'
"Church worship now competes with everything from professional sports to kids activities to household chores. ... we can either have a frank conversation about what church can be, or we can continue to watch the pews empty in cherished houses of worship across the country."
I really do enjoy a spirited conversation regarding what it means to church.
After all, given the seismic changes the larger church has undergone since the early days of the pandemic, the signs are apparent to all except for those who choose to ignore them. Some of the most faithful churchgoers’ habits are changing, and even the most ardent supporters of church worship are vocalizing their desires for changes.
I had the good fortune to be able to eavesdrop on a conversation about church at a recent work convention. It was fascinating to hear people talk about what’s happening in their local churches, what they hear is happening in other churches and their musings about what church could look like.
I shared some of the transformations that I’ve heard of taking place such as churches without a building, churches in coffee shops and bars, churches that meet on days other than Sundays and even worship in the evening. There’s actually a great movement of faithful people exploring what church means.
This conversation will sound blasphemous to some. I get that. There was a time when the expectation was that church was your priority on Sunday mornings, and the rest of society was expected to respect those boundaries.
But times have changed. All manner of activities have crept into what was once considered a holy day, and church worship now competes with everything from professional sports to kids activities to household chores. And now, as faithful people, we can either have a frank conversation about what church can be, or we can continue to watch the pews empty in cherished houses of worship across the country.
I have my own feelings about worship, of course. I love the ritual of my Sunday mornings at our church. Arriving hours before anyone else gets there; settling into the pastor’s office; turning on my classical music; studying the service for the day; and then listening to a radio broadcast of another area church that meets earlier in the day than us. I enjoy my coffee and bask in the early morning sunlight pouring in through my window, which feels like the Holy Spirit girding me up for the worship to come. It’s hard for me to imagine a different worship ritual.
But I understand that what works for me doesn’t work for all who desire to worship in a church community. And I don’t pretend to know how the Holy Spirit is at work in and outside of our worship services today.
What it means to church likely will always be dynamic. But I know that we have an ever-present God, who has always been, and always will be, active in our world. And if we keep our focus on that truth, I don’t much care if there’s an espresso bar in the back of my church!