Re-examining What We Call Church
I remember years ago having the question posed to me that if you went to Church on Sunday and the doors would be chained, what would you do? Would your local church survive? How would you then do church? I am haunted by coming back to that question, now years later, and realizing that church, for the most part in America, has become a “weekend program” (with multiple services Saturday night or Sunday mornings), run by a highly effective professional staff, with talented musicians and trained orators, and something “we come to”! We, as Americans, have become very complacent allowing the professional staff to do everything for us: pray for us, preach to us, lead us in worship through singing or liturgy, and inform us through printed media, graphics, or oral of what programs will be offered throughout the week that we should attend.
But if the church doors were barred, the clergy arrested, removed, eliminated, who among those left among the laity would be qualified, trained, or equipped to preach the Word, the Bible? Would prayer life flourish among the saints? Who would lead corporate prayer, or would it happen spontaneously through the leading of the Holy Spirit? Has the laity been trained to listen to the Holy Spirit for themselves, so they can follow in unity and be obedient to what they have seen and heard? Have we invested enough into the laity so that they would arise in leadership and responsibility?
Christians in persecuted China witnessed their clergy being ridiculed, arrested, imprisoned for years, and often killed. Bibles, literature, and hymnals were confiscated and burned. In spite of all this, the Church has survived, remained strong, and even grew. With no hymnals, they sing the hymns from memory. With no Bibles they quote memorized scripture accurately. With groups gathering being banned, they meet in secret, pray in unison, and fellowship when needed. If persecution hit the American Church, could we do the same? Many American Christians today have not even read through their entire Bible might as well memorized it. I don’t know if they would know the words to what they are singing without a hymnal or projected or printed words. Most American Christians never heard of Strong’s Concordance nor Bartlett’s Commentary, nor how to put a sermon together.
As long as America is on top, status quo is acceptable, in fact copied by the rest of the world, but are we “equipping the saints” for when the shift of power changes. History proves it will; the question is when. The American church has led the drive and financed missions for decades, but today the Church from the Orient is sending “missionaries” to America! What is the American Church doing to prepare for the future? Are they going to remain complacent, for the Church is not known for rapid or drastic change, or are they willing to listen to the winds of the Holy Spirit that are blowing the church’s course toward change?
If the doors closed, would Americans go to home churches as the Chinese did? The home church movement has been practiced in America; there would be some justification for its use due to tradition, or would the Holy Spirit do something new? Where would Americans meet and not be noticed? At the Mall? In the centerfield section of Wriggly field as bleacher bums? In the midst of an NFL stadium during a game? Would church be held through cyberspace, through Skype or Facetime or Google+? Instead of an app for “Words With Friends” would there be one for “Worship With Friends”? Who knows?
If doors were closed, and clergy disposed, could the laity survive? Knowing the vigilance and persistence of God’s people, they would find a way; they would rise to the challenge. The Holy Spirit is an innovative spirit because its creativity comes from its Creator! I am not sure what “church” or even “going to church” would look like, but I guarantee you, by the leading of the Holy Spirit the Church would be alive and well and growing in numbers and spiritual power and strength while the traditional way of “doing” church would vanish or be extremely altered!