I Corinthians 12:12-30 12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.Recently, I have been reflecting on the modern-day Church. Specifically around this idea of not needing Church in order to take part in a Christian walk. What comes to mind are phrases like: “I don’t have to go to Church in order to be ‘Christian’.” Or, “Going to Church doesn’t make you anymore a Christian than standing a garage makes you a car.” Or, simply, “All I need is my personal relationship with Jesus.” Now, I am not out to debate whether or not someone is a Christian in relation to Church attendance. I am working off the experience of hearing Christians make these sorts of comments about Church. I call this part of their walk, “Going it alone.”
Recently, Janet Hagberg devoted articles in her blog At River’s Edge to guest authors over the topic of; What is Church? Why Church? Thus far, she has devoted 3 different entries to the topic: 1st in series, 2nd in series, and 3rd in series. It is interesting the range of responses from the different authors. Ranging from (and I am interpreting and paraphrasing), ‘I left Church and experienced God more fully’ to ‘Church is where I belong’. And, ‘Church is wherever a group of people has formed’ to ‘I now see the Church as part of me but not a definition of me’. I can see a little bit of myself in all of these descriptions.
There have been times where I have been disenchanted with Church. There have been times where I did not feel I belonged in Church. Either because of the people there, or some sort of exposure I was feeling. There have been times where I have wondered if we are doing “Church” right. And yet, there have been times where I thought, “This must be a sample of what heaven will be like.” Many times, Church for me has been my source of fellowship, worship, and learning.
In M. Robert Mulholland’s book Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation, Mulholland talks about a privatized, individualized spirituality vs. corporate spirituality. In a lot of ways, the western Church is a reflection of our current society. Our society has become very individualized, yet our society is also the most mentally ill society in history. Mulholland spends some time writing about the different parts of the body based on the above passage. In an interesting twist, he replaces the labelled body parts with personality types. The reading around all of this reminded me about how important each part of the body is to each other. In a Church, there are all kinds of parts and they are all interdependent upon each other. When one part leaves and decides to “go it alone”, both the body and the part suffer.
I am not advocating that we/I have to keep strict attendance in Church. Also, I am not saying we/I even have to follow western Church expectations and traditions. However, what I know for myself is that I need a body or community of some sort to continue my transformative work (that will not end until I die or Jesus returns). Mulholland notes about corporate spirituality, “…we come into contact with others who become agents of grace in our growth toward wholeness in Christ, while we become agents of God’s grace in their growth.” He compares our privatized spirituality to keeping control over releasing control to God. He expounds on this further:
When we are in control of our relationship with God, when we try to maintain a privatized spirituality, we have to maintain a defensive posture toward others. We have to protect ourselves against them because we sense, unconsciously if not consciously, that there is a fatal flaw somewhere in our privatized spirituality—and anyone might disclose it. I have to keep you at arm’s length lest you reveal the weakness, the flaw, in my privatized spirituality.
One other revelation comes up for me around this topic. There are times where my attendance and fellowship is not for me. Other parts of the body need my presence. When my Church body is doing “hands” work and I am a foot, I have little to do. However, I still am a support piece for others. My feet need to be ready to move the body where the hands can work. I have other responsibilities within the body besides what I can gain from the body. If, I “go it alone”, then I am actually not supporting the body.
Finally, I would like to think that I have matured enough in my walk that Church attendance is not keeping a checklist to please God for me. There is more to Church attendance than doing it just out of obedience to” not forsaking the assembly”. There is a community of believers that is there for me and there so that I may support them. I need to be an example…not of how it should be done necessarily, but one of support and function within the body. I believe that God is still working in His Church. What I need to continue is to pay attention to where.
1. Explain where in your spiritual walk you have gone it alone?
2. What was the reason behind this lonely walk?
3. Take some time and read the articles from the Hagberg blog. What is your reaction to them?
4. What do you think are some of the reason behind a privatized spirituality?
5. Search your heart and listen for God this week around your role in the body. Pay attention to what God’s direction may be for you.
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