"going to church"

I've noticed over the last few months that my views about "going to church" are changing. Part of it had to do with not having very good options for church around here. And part, I suppose, has to do with thoughts about being a father and about what I'll teach and expect of my son. I haven't been going to church much lately, and it feels okay so far. We have our weekly small group going again, a time for singing and sharing and prayer and communion, and that has been more satisfying than most of my church experiences.

Now I know there are many good reasons for going to church, and that people can get a variety of good things from church participation. I've often had good reasons to go in the past. I usually haven't connected much with the worship or preaching, but I have valued meeting people there, and still do from time to time. I don't think I'd try to discourage anyone from going, if they're finding good experiences at church.

I'm just starting to think that it shouldn't be seen as a necessary part of following Jesus, as it usually is. If you have a good reason for going, then go. But if you can worship or pray or learn or find fellowship or serve God better in other ways, then feel free to choose those instead.

Ironically, one of the main reasons people use to insist on church attendance is one of the main objections I have to churches. We are told to go to church because the body of Christ is corporate, a union of many, and we cannot be Christians alone. True enough. But what does that have to do with going to church? The equating of the body of Christ with one of our many divided human organizations called "churches" is one of the main falsehoods taught in church. It's easy enough, if we attend for a while, to see it's not true. A church is always a mixed bag, falling far short of what we most deeply desire. But if we truly believe in the corporate body of Christ, and faithfully look for the unity and divine hand at work in the one Body, then we'll be shown how we can find support and serve God with others beyond the narrow confines of the churches. Without having to accept the hypocrisy and church politics and money squabbles, just like we find in every other human organization. If the body of Christ is what we're looking for, then in church is probably not the best place to see it. Some of those same people will reflect Jesus much better in other places, on other days of the week.

But, as I said, there can be good things to be found in church, and good reasons to go. I just don't think it should be automatic, or required for Christians. Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them." Two or three. That can be found in lots of places besides a church.


visitors from afar

We had guests with us all last week, friends that Heather met when she was in Nigeria years ago. Katherina (from Germany) and Israel (from Nigeria) and their two little kids. They have a small orphanage, with seven more children besides their own. The kids mostly came from very poor families, often because the father was killed. They received a gift to travel to the U.S. for a several month sabbatical and are staying with various friends around the country.

So it was a lot more interesting around here last week. They really enjoyed the fresh vegetables and learning about the farm. And we liked talking with them about how God has provided for them and their ministry. It was a real pleasure to have them with us. In a way, I saw it as providing a retreat, supporting them in their care of very poor and vulnerable children.

We also got a little more used to having a baby around (one of their daughters is just one). Ours should be here in less than two months.


"like a child that is quieted is my soul"

We've started doing evening prayer, hoping to make it a habit before the boy arrives. Here's what we're using (it's got some nice child, mother, father imagery in it, too):

(PDF version here)