So you tell me you meet in a coffee shop. Cup hands around steaming lattes with cream draped like ferns over the center. You relax deep into the comfy chairs while Mumford and Sons croons over you. You talk God and scroll through YouVersion, tapping out verses to discuss. Or you flip through the pages of that spiritual book, the memoir, the faith journey and you share thoughts and life and you drink in all the goodness of being together with like-minded believers who get you. You are encouraged and loved on and you leave with a the delicate taste of fellowship on your lips. And you say this is your church. You say, this is your holy temple of worship because aren’t we all the body and when together are we not the church?
And you tell me that you are done with institutional church and it’s programs.
You just want to be like Jesus and live authentically.
You say that you want an organic experience and so you join in living rooms and crack your mother’s ancient bible with the soft leather cover that slides like butter as you finger your way through the Word.
You bring a veggie tray from Costco because you were too tired to cook but somebody is simmering Chili on the stove and you feel like you’re home. You love these people who join every week to dig in. They brought you meals when you gave birth and knew that your daughter was allergic to gluten so they brought special brownies just for her. They look you right in the eyes when you say that you really need prayer and they are quick to jot your needs down on the post it fastened neatly to their Bible for just this purpose. And you’ve been here for so long and these are your people. And isn’t this the body being hands and feet?
You tell me that you listen to podcasts, your earbuds streaming truth into your spirit. You are fed as you go about your life. You haven’t set foot into a church since you’ve gone to college but you grew up going with your parents.
Your alarm wakes you as the sun creeps into the sky, when the warm light blossoms up from the east and you tiptoe past your sleeping room mates and drink your soy chai and scribble prayers in your journal. And you don’t feel like you’re missing anything. You go to your classes and listen to your professors teach through the epistles and you take notes for the day when you will graduate and your whole life is saturated with God stuff. You listen to worship music and go on missions trips with your school and isn’t this being fed? You are growing so much.
And I love all of your stories.
They are beautiful representations of fellowship, and community, and growth, but not necessarily church.
And you may think I’m wrong. A year ago I would have thought so too. Because who defines church?
What is church anyway? Not a building or a program.
It’s people right,God’s people? But who gathers and how they gather, does that matter? I would argue that it does. Because I don’t believe God desires us to do away with the institution of the local church. I think He wants the expression of it to be different but not done.
And you think that religion is something that stifles and abuses. You think orthodoxy is antiquated and only angry white men with giant egos throw those words around.
But there is a truth in God’s purpose for church and that is that it would grow, it would reach, it would glorify, it would have open doors, and it would impact.
And those are areas where your coffee shop meetings, organic non institutional community, or downloadable teachings and college roomies may be falling short of some of the fullness that church offers.