Part 3 of my recent article on reasons why apparently believing people might decline to get serious about their local church.
Do they know what the Church is?
After World War 2 we developed a concept of leisure for the first time. Previously we rested to energise our work. Other than the family, work was the sphere of usefulness, the place of importance. Subsequently we replaced this with the idea that we work to finance our leisure activity. Leisure became the important factor in life and by definition leisure is what we do at weekends.
At exactly the same time Christians came under increasing pressure to withdraw from the public square and privatise our faith. By and large we did so. When the world of work was separated from the world of leisure we positioned church firmly in the latter category – after all it happens at the weekend! Therefore in the minds of most non-Christians now church is a leisure activity on a par with attending the golf club. Sadly this is not just limited to non-Christians. Ask your congregation whether they understand church as the organisation they are pleased to attend on Sunday, or whether it is what they are at a most fundamental level and you will reveal whether they have grasped what it means to belong to the body of Christ.
There are around 200 New Testament descriptions and names of the Church of Jesus Christ. Among my favourites are in Ephesians: the body of Christ which is a new humanity, God's means of making known his wisdom to spiritual authorities, like a mature man growing up into Christ. But my all time favourite is 1 Peter 2: a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a people belonging to God that you may declare the excellencies of the one who called you out of darkness. If people don't want to get involved in declaring God's excellencies in the world we have to ask whether they have understood that they are a chosen people and royal priesthood.
If they haven't grasped what the Church is, they will likely be what I sometimes call "filler-Christians". A filler-Christian decides what they have to do and want to do with their week and church gets whatever is left over, if anything. It is the opposite of discipleship. Disciples give God everything, look to glorify him in all their activities outside of the church, and delight in being in the people of God. Church isn't the left-over, it is the primary community in relation to which the rest of life works.