Saturday, September 26, 2009

Being Church--First Thoughts

There's currently a lot of conversation in the blogosphere about what it means to be church. This week at Elm Street, we have been engaging in some live conversation about being church together, and about being church into the future.

Earlier today, as I checked my email, I received links to the following blog posts by Dan Dick. After some time reflecting on them, I want to offer them to you.

The first post should sound fairly familiar to anyone who has been a part of our conversations at Elm Street--Church Without Churches. Much as we have done this week, Dan Dick opens a thought experiment about what might happen if tomorrow, every United Methodist congregation found itself without a building. Dan informs his readers that "Approximately 60% of our current membership defines church as attending worship on Sunday morning. “Going to church” describes the fundamental experience for the majority of United Methodists — especially inactives."

How do you primarily define "church?" Is it more about "Going to..." or "Being..." church for you? I'd encourage you to read Dan's blog post and spend some more time thinking about these questions--his insights are powerful and insightful!

The second post I recieved hit home as well. In Irresponsibly Unresponsive, Dan asks us to answer the question "What responsibility does the individual have for her or his own spiritual growth and development?" In it, Dan talks about people who leave United Methodist congregations and their stated reasons, while raising questions about our personal responsibility for Christian discipleship and development. One of my favorite parts of this post is the following:
The majority of people attend church hoping to receive something, but very few express any responsibility to bring anything to worship. (In fact, the question was confusing to many people. We asked two questions: “How do you prepare yourself for worship?” and “What are your regular practices to grow spiritually?” In both cases, “what do you mean?” and “Nothing/None” are the top answers.)

I'd really love for you all to check out Dan's post--I don't want to give too much away, but I can't resist offering the following thoughts for you:
One interesting reaction from 4-out-of-every-5 people who left the church was a sense of indignation, and often outrage, that “the church” would expect anything from them. Various people expressed resentment that they were instructed to pray, read the Bible, regularly attend church, give money, give time, or support congregational projects. The overwhelming opinion is that all these things should be up to the individual.

Again, these thoughts make me want to ask, how do you primarily define "church?" Is it more about "Going to..." or "Being..." church for you?

I'm currently in the midst of a sermon series on "Being Church" that will continue until Christ the King Sunday (the last one before Advent). For those of you who will not hear those live, but who would like to know more, you can listen to the Elm Street UMC Podcasts here.

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