Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Who is Your Church? Reflections by Abbe Golden

We live in a culture of self-centeredness, instant gratification, and convenience. “What does it do for me?” shapes how we participate or choose not to participate in most activities, including church. Our behavior often models the culture of self-centeredness, while our witness—to understand ourselves and live as God's people called into community with one another is silent.

A very common notion of “church” today considers church as primarily a place where certain things happen: or as a vendor of religious goods and services designed to meet the individual's self-defined needs. Where these notions are primary, a congregation loses a sense of its connectedness, interdependence and community. Each of these notions leads to limited expectations and unsatisfactory participation patterns, restricting the church's vitality and witness. The future of our church depends on a shared understanding of the church as a body of people, called by God, and sent on God's mission.

As we continue on our Stepping Stones journey we will be looking at a variety of hypothesis concerning the church. The first hypothesis: Who is Your Church? Not who is the church, but who is your church? Hmmm…. interesting question. How do you see Sunnyside? How do others see us? How do you see yourself within the church?

The hypothesis contends that the notion of “church” today is a place where certain things happen: or as a vendor of religious good and services to meet the individual’s self-defined needs. So when Cindy Lou Looking- For- a -Church sits in our pew for the first time, what does she see? Does she have a check list: children’s program, check; good music program, not too wild, check; sermon, not too long, check; friendly people, check, potlucks, yum, check; Sunday School classes, check; etc. “Yes”, she says! “This is the church for me!”

What if she had a different list? Great choir, maybe I could join, check; they mentioned the food pantry, I think I could help with that, check; the sermon really touched me today, I hope to live the message throughout the week, check; the people here are so friendly, it makes me want to be friendly too, check; what a great bunch of kids, I would like to see if I can help with Sunday School classes, check; I like that they are involved with missions such as Habitat and Heifer International, what a great opportunity for me to help the community, check; etc. “ Wow”, she says, “This is a church where I can serve the Lord, a people working together to fulfill God’s vision.”

Ephesians 2:22: And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

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