-Why is Christian community in America so often based on church meetings?
Have you ever noticed that churches often organize their social activity around meetings more often then natural friendships that occur in unplanned, random daily occurences?
Here is a sample of local church meetings I’ve noticed in my area;
“Bible study”, “Men’s Group”, “Women’s Group”, “Young married couples group”, “Sunday School”, “Vacation Bible School”, “Youth Group”, “Promise Keepers Group”, “Wednesday Night Service”, “Studying the Apostolic Fathers”, “Divorce Recovery Group”, “Alcohol Anonymous”, “College and Career group”.
The list is virtually endless depending on what region you live. Can you imagine the twelve Apostles creating “Men’s groups” or “divorce recovery groups”?
Isn’t this symptomatic of an ugly problem; American Christianity is really good at organizing meetings, and not so good at nurturing friendships that occur as a normal day-to-day element of life? This is not to say that everything that modern churches do is bad. It is to say, being good at organizing meetings is not the same thing as being good at building friendships outside of meetings.
I’ve known a lot of non-Christians throughout my life. In fact, even though I was raised in an Evangelical church community, I’ve usually had more non-Christian friends and acquaintances than Christians. This has little to do with me; the main reason for this is that my non-Christian friends and acquaintances drop by to see me all the time! They randomly call me to say “Hey, what’s up?”, they randomly check in on me throughout the week.
While there are exceptions, American Christians have a tendency to view church friendships as something that is limited to potlucks, birthday parties, and prearranged meetings.
Non-Christian friends and acquaintances don’t always wait for scheduled events; they give you a call and ask, “Hey, what’s going on tonight? Any interest in getting together for dinner or going out to see a movie?”
Non-Christian friends don’t always wait for the next group activity, they stop by during the week to ‘hang out’ .
When Pastor Pohly was alive, he would often tell me his real ministry began after the Sunday worship service was over. Our church had what they called a Fellowship Hour following the Sunday service, which usually ended up being a Fellowship [Three] Hour, as Pastor Pohly would visit with everyone who stayed. Many churches do a similar thing following the Sunday service, and this is a good opportunity to begin building friendships that extend outside of the building. For Pastor Pohly, it wasn’t enough for his congregants to merely meet within the confines of the church; true discipleship extended outside of the building and into the homes of the church community.
I spend a lot of time thinking about discipleship. After all, the Great Commission that Jesus gave to his followers was not to merely invite people to church meetings, but to go out into the world and make disciples of all men.
What did Jesus mean when he used the term “discipleship”? Is this something he believed could occur at an organized church meeting?
If Jesus meant something similar to the lifestyle he modeled, than discipleship would mean spending time with one’s disciples outside of church meetings; having dinner with one’s disciples at their houses, at your house, and inviting your disciples to dinner at non-Christian houses! Discipleship like Jesus modeled would be encouraging one’s disciples to observe you in all the various aspects of your daily life; your disciples would tag along with you while you go to the bank, go grocery shopping, and running all the various errands of your day-to-day life. After all, Jesus’ disciples were with him at all times, and throughout Jesus’ every day-to-day life.
How can one model true-Christianity to one’s disciples if they only see you while you are at a church meeting?
Isn’t this the reason that one of the main criticisms of Christianity by young adults who’ve abandoned the faith, or by non-Christians, is that the church looks plastic and fake? Is it possible that Christians are unknowingly practicing a form of discipleship that only occurs at group meetings at church?
Too many churches are comprised of priests, pastors, elders, deacons, (whatever you call the various leaders at your local assembly), who are usually only available to disciple the parishioners at specific church meetings; yet if they were practicing the type of discipleship modeled by Jesus; their congregants would be in the car with the pastor as he gets his oil changed, as he runs to the store to pick up cough syrup for his sick child, or as he spends time visiting the sick at the hospital or making calls to the houses of people who have recently moved into town.
This type of discipleship would not be extraordinary, it would be merely practicing the religion that Jesus modeled for his own disciples, and the type of discipleship that they then practiced with the men they called “disciple” in the first and second centuries.
This type of discipleship, while it may sound out of the ordinary to our 21st century minds, really shouldn’t be; after all, if we as Christians believe that the gospel we’ve been given is something far more valuable and important than anything else in life, shouldn’t we take what Jesus told us more seriously?
Shouldn’t we go out into the whole world and make disciples of all men?
Or would you rather stick to your church meetings that you love so much?
The choice is yours….