What Should Churches Be About?
In recent weeks, I’ve been largely focused on writing a book about stages and issues in spiritual development. Thus, less blog posts lately. The book necessarily deals with issues of our “big picture” of reality… our worldviews and theological systems which form and inform each other in both directions. I happen to think we:
1. Don’t give these big-picture questions enough thought and reflection, and
2. When we do, our thinking is typically restricted (and thus confusing to ourselves) by the rigidity and distorting nature of the main paradigms that drive our religions and general culture.
Sometimes I question whether my efforts will help many people because I know the times most people DO actually reflect on these issues are after a tragedy, a loss, or at times of transition when some issue or other has caused tension within a person or between them and friends or leaders in a church (or other group) they may attend. But then again, I realize, at least one of those things happens fairly often for most of us.
This, in turn, causes me to reflect on what churches should be about. If not “should,” then what do we really want them to be about? Of course, many volumes have been written about this question and I have no intention of getting into all the possible issues.
In order to keep this article short, I’ll focus on mainly three ideas:
1. That it is actually very important to give some deliberate thought, some reading, conversation, etc. to your big-picture view of reality. This necessarily involves the existence and nature of God. Whether religious, spiritual-but-not-religious, religious/spiritual and scientific, or something else, this exploration can gain you some clarity you may have been seeking and it may help you either better settle into a faith community or perhaps seek a change to one operating within a “big picture” more like your own.
2. That Evangelical churches tend to operate clearly from a supernaturalist paradigm but progressive churches (some among mainline denominations) are likely to be more confused about what paradigm they use to make sense of God, the Bible and spirituality.
3. That whatever paradigm a community may favor (or more than one among community members), the core of Christian faith and what Jesus emphasized — the centrality of love in action — can be the community emphasis as well.
How much do you see and feel love and compassion expressed within your church? How much is it expressed outwardly toward the needy or the broader world? If you are dissatisfied, what actions are you taking about it, or contemplating?