In recent weeks, Don Miller has created what accounts for controversy in the Christian blogosphere. In two separate posts on his Storyline blog, Miller lets his readers know why he chooses not to attend church anymore. To be fair his first post was not meant to elicit the reaction it did and yet, Miller has not backed down as is clear by a follow-up some days later. While I most often choose to ignore controversies that erupt in the popular Christian blog sphere (thanks to certain media-wavy preachers, these have become marketing events, more so than anything else) I thought I’d give my thoughts on this one.
A couple of confessions first. Not only do I go to church, I work for a church. This, for many who know me and who have had conversations with me over the last couple of years, might surprise. While I would have reacted positively to Miller’s comments only a short few years ago, several things have changed for me. All this despite the fact that I am not always happy about the Church. Or even often. I have sympathized with the emergent movement, I have bemoaned the lack of “depth” just as I have complained when the service gets to long, the music is to boring, or the prayer does not grab my attention. As opposed to Miller, I am not a kinesthetic learner, but auditory. And yet, surprise, surprise, the title of his blog I Don’t Worship God by Singing could still apply to me. The reality is, church has often been for me about the people I meet and not the sermon, nor the music, or the prayer, or lets face it, anything else that goes on. So I could find all of that elsewhere, right? And yet, I keep going. Why?
Here it is. Much eloquent verbosity has been thrown at the issue about how we can find church community outside of church. Much of the same energy has been directed at trying to form more experiential forms of church worship. Even more energy has been put in to make church more emotionally relevant, or more adaptable to our postmodern sensibilities, even more has been put into discovering ways to preach that leave open questions, that are less predictable, and less boring! The reality is and always will be, that to attend church is a choice. Miller spends considerable time refuting the twin arguments of “its not about how I feel” and “church is not just about me” and I won’t get into an argument about negatives about these two things. Rather let me make this statement: going to church for me is about submission.
Going to church, just as any other spiritual discipline is about love. Not the emotion, or the feeling, but the cold hard choice. Because in the end love looks beyond self, beyond my own need, beyond what I want, or what I have the right to. Love looks beyond my learning style. Rather, love compels me to say, that whatever doubts I have, whatever frustrations I have, whatever rights I feel are being violated, it is God who loved first. And that God asks me to submit everything I have! Everything! Yes, there is room for my feelings, there is room for my preferences, but I tell you that so often they want to take over all of me. And so I go to church because God loved us so that he gave us his Son, and through his son he has chosen to take the imperfect vessels that we are, and as community he has chosen us to bring his Kingdom into this place. And I go to church not because it fits me, or because it provides me with just the right amount of spiritual peppiness to get me through the week. I go to church because God has invited me into an imperfect community that will sing songs I don’t always like and where there are sermons that do not conform to my learning styles. And the same God has invited me to take what happens in a building, one time a week and to bring that into the world I live in. Everyday!
I agree. Church is not just Sunday, it is not just found in a building, with one group of people. But I have realized that if I cannot submit who I am, my rights, and my desires, to a community that seeks to worship God in the best way it can, that seeks to be faithful, that seeks to embody Christ and then send us out to do the same… If I cannot do that – then, whatever forms of “church” I find out there, will most likely serve me and not Christ.
That is why I still go to church!