An old friend wrote about community and relationship, as they relate to worship:
This is the very essence of what Jesus was trying to teach his disciples and all of us during his time on this earth.
It’s about relationship and community. He lived in community with 12 and taught them what community was all about. Our worship to our God and Savior is made perfect when living in community and when experienced in community.
The evil one continues to wage war as he has convinced us that “bigger is better” and we’ve moved towards the megachurch model, and as we purchase real-estate and tie up his funds in things that don’t meet community needs. Heaven on earth is experienced and accomplished in community–which at its core is all about deep, unconditionally loving, forgiving, serving, joy filled, God-praising relationships. – Dirk Smith (adapted)
This could really stand on its own … but, being by nature a verbal individual, I am impelled to comment a bit. 🙂 First on real estate: I do not stand aghast at churches that own real estate. But I do seriously question the ubiquity of property mortgages. It should not be an assumption that a stable, normal church must own land and a building. It just isn’t necessary. I have been offended by the nature of some buildings (mostly in the South, where we used to be “on the other side of the tracks but where we now have something to prove), and by church office remodelings, and fancy this and extravagant that.
It’s not that owning property is patently wrong, but it does seem to me that spending 80+% of a church’s available funds on property and staff salaries — a “normal” percentage in my experience — is sad. I think it’s quite possible, even in the western world, to have a church without much expense. Put more definitively: it’s possible to have a church without owning property. Renting or borrowing spaces for meetings may not be the easiest option when you’re a full-blown institution with habits and patterns that demand specific types of spaces, but if the church is small and/or doesn’t demand classroom space and a kitchen, there are lots of places that aren’t used on Sundays that could be available. Rent a movie theater or a corporate conference room . . . or even a school that would allow use of a few classrooms! It’s a win-win (well, except for the tax base of your county). The school in your community gets more money, you spend less, and existing facilities are used. Now, on to what should eclipse capital expenditures. . . .
In terms of relationships in church, I feel impoverished and have felt so for most of my life. I speak both of the vertical and the horizontal. Oh, there have been hints of riches. Glimpses of glory. Peeks into perfection. Isolated experiences have caused me to know when I am experiencing worship in community. But these have been only isolated experiences. Never for a sustained time have I been in a church in which I was regularly caught up in worship of the Almighty (or lost in edification of the saints, for that matter). We’re not talking about the checklist mentality that says we’ve “done” the “five acts” of worship; therefore, we’re good for this week. No, we’re talking about genuine, spirit-to-spirit corporate worship.
Some would say my standards are too high, or I’m unrealistic, or something. Others would say I’m too critical. In a sense, they’re all right. But I want more than churches have ever helped to provide for me, to date. I crave more.
It is my convicted testimony–based more on intuition and isolated experiences than on logical proposition–that never does a more edified state exist than when Christians worship together. Put another way: horizontal fulfillments arise best and most compellingly out of vertically connected spirits.
Above all other values, God helping me, “my church” will be a worshipping church, and the worshipping will occur in relational community.
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P.S. Part of me would have preferred to end this series on church values on a Sunday. Perhaps, poetic purpose would have been better served. But church must not only be considered to exist on Sundays. And, second, maybe those of you who read this on Saturday will yearn more on Sunday . . . and will be more integral in creating more of an atmosphere of worship where you are.