In the previous posts in this series, I suggested that it is dangerous to the spiritual maturity of believers to place an extraordinary emphasis on Sunday as “The Day” or a specific location as “The Place” for Christians to meet together as the church.
Besides teaching people that they are only the church on a particular day and at a particular place, the practices of modern, traditional churches also dangerously teach people that the church is only meeting when they follow a particular program. Sometimes this is called liturgy. Sometimes it’s a specific set of activities or events that must happen.
Can you imagine what would happen on Sundays among most churches if there were no songs? What if no one preached a sermon or delivered a homily? What if certain creeds or prayers were not recited in unison?
And, yet, none of these things are necessary for the church to meet. However, because most churches practice these things “religiously,” people are taught that they are necessary and if they don’t happen (sometimes in a certain order) then it is not church.
In this case, it is not the day or the place that is defining the church, but a certain set of activities. Interestingly, these activities typically have little to do with the people involved. Anyone could sing the songs or recite the creeds/prayers, and it would still be considered church. The people themselves are replaceable. The people no longer define the church; certain activities – the program – defines the church.
Once again, this gets to the question of identity. The people are the church because Christ dwells in them, and they are gathered together. But, when we show people week after week that certain things must happen when the church meets, then we confuse their understanding of what it means to be the church.
When this happens, Christ is no longer the center and power of the church; that particular program is the center and definition of the church. This is dangerous; yes, even when the program is Christ-centered. A program – even a Christ-centered program or liturgy – is not Christ himself.
I know what some are thinking: “Just because we always do certain things and say certain things when the church meets, we still teach that the people are the church.” Sure, but our actions speak much louder than our words. We’re teaching people that they are only the church when they do certain thing when we practice those things over and over and over and over without exception.
The activities that we take part in and the things that we say do not make us the church. Gathering together as God’s children makes us the church – whatever we do and whatever we say.