This is a question I often find myself asking.
I work a job that does not offer me regular days off. In fact, erratic would not even describe my working schedule as of late. This makes many things in life hard, especially when it comes to faith.
I ask myself, what does the Church provide that makes it so fundamental to a Christian life? First to my mind is that it provides community. A central gathering place for people of the same faith. A place to commune in God’s name and celebrate. A place to worship. A place to learn.
However, I have often found myself surrounded by people of the same faith, eager to discuss and explore our beliefs. And to some degree, I find this to be more helpful than what the Church provides. To use an analogy, a Sunday service is elementary school, whereas a bible study with a healthy discussion is University. In a Church service, you are presented with facts and opinions on a topic. You can either take them as they are, explore them after the service, or reject them. In early education, we are presented with facts. “Simple” problems wherein the solution is a straight line A -> B. If we consider topics presented to us in University, they are very rarely a straight line solution. They must be explored. They must be stretched and poked and prodded and turned upside down. They must be wrestled with. They must be struggled with. A bible study wherein discussion is an equal part of the equation provides the ability to prod God’s word. To turn it about, to stretch it, to wrestle with it. To struggle with it. And most of all, to do it with people who are going through the exact same thing as you. God doesn’t call us on cheating if we work together to try to understand something he’s said.
So, if I find myself in a community outside of the Church that shares belief in God’s Word and isn’t afraid to discuss it or explore avenues such as music, books, and discussion to learn more about it, is the Church still relevant?
I had written the above bit just before I started my last set of shifts, which was the beginning of missing several weeks Church. I never got around to hitting the publish button. I’ve been mulling around with this notion, and I’ve been able to develop my thoughts on the subject a little.
Provided you find a healthy community you can be in outside of the Church, I don’t feel that the Church is essential to the growth of a person’s faith; and I can think of instances in my life where the Church has been limiting in the development of my faith.
I do, however, find immeasurable value in the rituals and sacraments that the Church provides. Primarily, communion. I never really understood communion until recently. I think that the concept and meaning of it is nigh impossible for a child to understand. But it has become one of the most powerful parts of the service for me. I no longer view it as the thing that happens that means “Good, it’s just about over.” It’s the culmination of a celebration. It is The point of the whole thing.
I don’t want to seem that I’m eager to dismiss the Church, as a place or as an institution. I’m sure there is more to it than just offering sacraments. And by all means, for those without a strong faith community outside the Church it is and should be a focus point.
I guess if there’s one thing that I’ve decided while mulling about all this, it’s that people should be less afraid to explore their faith outside of the Church. It’s safety is alluring, but you can learn so much more by getting out there and talking to people and exposing yourself to new ideas that challenge your beliefs. It provokes the growth that results in a solid, grounded, healthy faith. We, as Christians, are called to be in the World, and oft we can forget that. To paraphrase Rob Bell, my desire would be for Christians that we develop a faith like a trampoline: one that can be jumped on pushed and retain it’s structure. We should do what we can to avoid “Brickianity,” and making out faith fit into an extremely narrow point of view that, if challenged, may result in the entire thing falling apart.
I know this is a little disconnected, but that’s how my brain works. That’s all for now.