“Christ is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.” Colossians 1:18 (NRSV)
Recently a young woman pulled her SUV into the church parking lot as I was leaving to ask me a question about using our fellowship hall for an event they were planning. She said, “We have met before. My family and I came to church here a couple of times when we were church shopping.”
Church shopping. I know people do it, and I know they even say it. But I wonder how the church now has become a commodity to be “priced, compared, and negotiated.” What does “church shopping” imply? Does that mean that God is for sale, so to speak? Does it mean that we are a club people are checking out to see if they want to belong.
Unfortunately, the sense of joining a club has become more of the mindset than finding a place where people can worship God. I wonder if the disciples fussed at Jesus because he didn’t pick the right hill or the most inspiring surroundings when they would stop for worship and praise. I wonder if they balked at going to the local synagogue because it wasn’t pretty enough, didn’t have the right music, the priest wasn’t interesting enough, the choir didn’t sound good, the people ignored them, or whatever the excuse might have been.
To answer my own wondering, I suspect it didn’t matter to them where they worshiped because they were with Jesus. I mean, how cool is that? To be with God incarnate (even though they didn’t always get it, but then, neither do we!). Their goal was to pray, worship God, sing to God’s glory, be among God’s people regardless of their surroundings.
Over the last ten years or so (maybe longer), we have heard the complaint that the church is “blah” and outdated. On the other hand, we hear the message that we shouldn’t succumb to the world’s demands and let the world determine who we are as a church. We have programs galore that tell us how to improve the church, make it more marketable, bring more people in, help the congregation to be a more spiritual place or a more welcoming place or a more inviting place.
Why can’t we just worship God together – wherever it might be? Of course, we all have preferences about how that works for us, and what is most meaningful to us, but what we also seem to forget is that we go to church to worship God in the context of the community of faith. So what if we don’t like that nosey lady who always sits in the back row and looks grumpy or the man who always ushers and tells others how to usher, too.
Most of us are smart enough to figure out that there are different personalities and different ways of seeing things. Okay, so they DON’T represent God in the best way – do we? The church is about God in Christ and is empowered by the Holy Spirit – when we let it be that way. Let’s not forget that Jesus is the head of the church, and we worship him, not each other. Let’s remember that we come to glorify God, and our own spiritual growth is a result of our faithfulness. May it be so!