No, I do really mean it; let’s stop ‘Going to Church.’
Before you organise your diaries too much let me tell you a story. When I was younger I would tell my mother Sunday by Sunday by Sunday that I was going to Church. My mum knew exactly what I meant by this because it was a phrase everyone understood, and it helped that my mum would go to Church too.
However, what I hadn’t realised was, was that this phrase though clearly useful and informative was profoundly wrong. The phrase had turned Church from being somewhere where Jesus is present, into a place for those who didn’t mind Jesus being around. It had turned Church from being like a mountain top, or a valley depth, where we meet the living God into a film set where all the action is carefully choreographed to entertainment and to move us. It had turned Church from being a family for all, into a club that was for some.
We need to re-think, re-imagine and re-phrase what we mean so that people we meet will say ‘I never thought Church could be like this.’
This is what I’m trying to get at when I ask what the difference is between belonging to a family and belonging to a club. Somehow the language of ‘the club’ has become the dominant way in which we think about, and describe, what it means to belong, or go, to Church. What we need is a shock to shake us from our lethargy stirring us into re-thinking, re-imagining and re-phrasing who we think we are, to re-engage better with who and what Jesus is calling us to be for the sake of all creation.
This is where the language of ‘family’ comes in; though it does come with a health warning. It is easy to assume that what we mean by ‘family’ is what the New Testament says, and we forget the early church had to rework their own ideas in a fresh and vibrant way in the light of Jesus and how this metaphor would serve the cause of Jesus best in their time and place.
Are you ready to be a place where it’s said, ‘I never thought Church could be like this?’ In fact some are already describing us so; but may this be said more and more as we listen to and live out the words of Jesus today.