Rethinking the question

The question that started this entire re-thinking process for me was a simple one, on the surface. Not wanting to duplicate church or borrow from another church’s identity or theology, for that matter, I asked this question of myself: what is the church?

This is not a new question for me. I have answered it before on more than one occasion in various academic learning environments. I even asked the question, “what is the purpose of Church?” in an earlier article and left it unanswered because something was still amiss. I never found that place of comfort that one comes to when you have finally found the truth of the matter. I kept studying and asking, researching and probing. Finally, I decided to let it come to me. Sometimes I just keep asking questions until I find the right one.

Tania, my wife, edits everything that I write because it is her gift and passion. I have a bad habit of saying “people that,” and every time the rebuke will come, “Kwesi it’s ‘people who’.” The last time this happened, I heard her… and I heard more. I was asking the wrong question, a bad question.

“What is the church” is a bad question. You can only know this if you know the answer. Since the simple answer is “people,” then that question can’t be what is… it rather must be “who is the church?”

If we ask “what is the church,” it gives us a way to point to an organization or a leader. If we reword the question and ask, “Who is the church,” it always brings it back to us. In the past when people have asked, “What is the Church doing about ___,” I have expressed anger, disgust, disbelief and disappointment, if the answer was “not enough” or “nothing.” Changing the question has also caused me to change the answer.

“What is the church doing about helping the poor?” Now I answer this way: “I am helping the poor by… I am helping the community in that I do…” If the question is, “What is the church doing about hypocrisy?” Now I answer this way: “I am dealing with my hypocrisy by being open, honest and transparent.”

I’ve found in doing so, that I have reclaimed possession of my personal responsibility to Christ. I am a part of His church, after all. “We” are His church, and “it” cannot be Church. After years and years of going to church, being a member of a church, being a leader at church, giving to the church, and finally being disillusioned with church, I have finally changed the question, and the right question has changed me. As I rethink, I am intentionally not a member of any organization that identifies itself as church.

All the responsibility is mine, as it should always be. If I don’t study, I don’t mature. I don’t give because of anything or anyone else. I give because I am His church and as such, I strive to be and do what my Leader (Christ) requires. I question because I am His church. I’m involved in my community and the global community because we are His church. Christ’s Church is more than a building, a pastor, a people, a meeting, a grouping, a complex, an institution, an organization or a denomination. I am His church, and the responsibility to follow Christ’s direction and instruction for my life is mine alone. Others can and should help, but only I can be responsible for personally remaining faithful as His Church.

 

Discussion Questions

Do you agree or disagree? How does being reminded of your personal identity as Christ’s Church affect you? What would change in your life if gatherings to have what we call church were suddenly impossible? Can you effectively be a member of Christ’s Church without being a member of an organization?

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19 thoughts on “Rethinking the question

  1. I believe that I can effectively be a member of Christ’s Church and not be a member of an organization. I have not physically been to a church (building) in weeks. Truthfully, I haven’t missed it. Trus, I sometimes feel the “need” to assemble myself with the “saints”, but for the most part, I find that I can have a rewarding experience of Chris’t love, right in my living room, or at “Bedside Baptist”. The prolem is that I want my daughters to have the church experience and not become disillusioned with church and church folks. I don’t want them to be tainted by my experiences. Thus, I find myself going thru the motions and going to church with them I will more than likely be at church this Sunday, but only because one of my kids said to me the other day, “we haven’t been to church in a long time.” I guess old habits die hard and they want to go, because they are accomustomed to going every Sunday…the bad thing is – that was the old Mom, the new, more enlightend Mom is “churched-out”.

  2. Hello Kwesi,

    Asking the question another way is good. Now I have to address me and not what someone else is not doing. For our walk with Jesus is a personal walk. God holds us accountable individually for what we do with what He has told us through His Word. So now I must take a deep look within.

    My pass dealings with church’s has caused me to look inward. One thing was I was so hurt & bitter it was changing me, oozing out like poison. This bothered me because I didn’t want to be that way. But that was how I felt in my heart. Being caught up in ministry and re-asked the question has made me re-evaluate my walk.

    1. I can’t remember the last time I visited the prisons
    or
    2. Started a conversation that opens the door to witness, because I have been in church working and not doing what I see in the most important thing God wants.

    3. I do feed the poor & pray but so many other things lack.
    I can’t blame it on time or my responsibilities. When I take a hard look at the issue, the bottom line is this: we do and make time for the things we really want to do. A better way to say that is: Do I see this as a priority?

    I repent Lord, so I can be a part of the solution and not the problem.

    God Bless Ya Kwesi

    Eric

  3. Hey Min. Kwesi-
    Hello to you and Tania, Khaleb and Kharon.
    Thought I would chime in on this one as this is also a question -or rather an answer – that I find to be true. We – the people – are indeed Christ’s church. I recall hearing a sister being angry about TDJakes standing alongside Pres Bush when he gave response to Katrina survivors without also taking responsibility for what she had (and more precisely had not done) for them herself. As you stated, it is much easier to blame the church – when it is a what – than to take responsibility – when it is me. I have found over the years in working in communities that when I take responsibility for picking up trash, participating in PTA/PTSA events, school board, HOA boards and other community meetings and outreach, I feel a direct stake in what goes on and feel obligated to personally get involved. There are so many, particularly in our community, who never get involved in anything outside of the 4 walls of their home and church – they have no idea what is going on and our authority in the earth to pray to God for release to change things could be so much greater.

  4. Welcome Robin,

    Thanks for your openness. Let me encourage you that there are churches that operate differently that what you may have grown accustom to. There are micro churches and emerging churches, also check out the link friend of missional.

    If I might, let me suggest that you explain to your daughters your issues with church and together you’ll can find a gathering that you are excited to fellowship with, a gathering that calls you to serve (outside of the walls) and not be served.

    It might be a great time to invest in your daughters the reality that being a Christian is about way more than going to church.

    Maybe instead of going to service this week, you’ll can go serve at a soup kitchen.

  5. Hey Eric,

    Good to hear from you welcome. That’s what this is all about, remembering that we are the church. All of the questions that I have asked remain valid and all the ones to come may be even more difficult because we got this one right. I am the church, I am responsible for what is or isn’t done, where ever I find myself.

    I’m loving it!

  6. Welcome Valerie,

    Good to see you here. Yep, it’s easy to sit in the four walls and think that we are really doing something. I am ashamed to say, at the hight of my churchliness, I didn’t even know my neighbors name. So much for loving them, right.

    Yeah, I’m all about being a doer these days.

  7. I’d like to deal with the question, “how would my life be different if church gatherings were suddenly impossible.” I think that where I am in my life, if I suddenly could not participate in a church gathering, I’m posturing myself now to be okay. By identifying things I can do in my community to reflect the light of Christ and maintaining healthy relationships with people, I’m off to a good start. Of course, with studying, prayer, and communing with God, the picture is pretty complete.

    As Jesus told the woman at the well, it’s not in any mountain or particular city that worship takes place. Worship takes place where the people of God are, when they worship him in spirit and in truth (paraphrased, I know.)

    My grandmother is 90 and has been unable to attend her home church for several years now. Yet she maintains her relationship with God in ways that are available to her — television, music, the Bible, and people. Now that I write this, I am thinking that this is the time that her local church should see about her now. Caring for the widows fits here. Visits and calls — bringing a piece of the gathering to her — would be so appropriate.

    There are believers all over the world who do not enjoy the freedom to gather as we do. They share one hand-written Bible that they smuggle back and forth to one another, lip-sync praise songs so that they will not be killed for singing, and meet in small groups literally underground. These people are part of a community of believers in spite of deadly consequences. It doesn’t take a formal gathering or a building. Church is in our united hearts.

  8. Katrice,

    Such a great response! I was thinking of the persecuted church when asking that question and your comment has caused me to re-think my response to the persecuted church (that post is coming). For now I’ve added a link to Voice of the Martyrs. There is so much we need to do and pray about!

    You also ask a great question. Now that your grandmothers age restricts her from attending meetings at the building. Where is the church? Answer, when we go visit, we will minister to her and maybe even her neighbors. Smile

  9. You would make me stop and think, wouldn’t you?

    This is an extremely thought provoking article – and sorely needed. Most of us as Christians have to bear the responsiblity of taking up our crosses and following Him.

    It’s not cute. It’s not convenient. We can’t rail against others who have decieved us (well, we can but we’ve got to do something when we’ve wailed enough).

    At the end of the day, we’ll stand before Him to give an account for our work here – the crooked pastor will be dealt with so we don’t have to say “I would’ve done ____ but my pastor…”

    I used to think that church was the building that we met in (even though I knew we are the ecclesia). I later thought of church as sort of a “spiritual hospital” – a place we’d come to lick our wounds and get fired up to go out and fight again.

    I now see the church as an organism – a living, breathing entity that is charged with representing The One whom we preach and declare…in every area of our lives.

    I heard a song by Casting Crowns in passing 4 years ago, and to this day I can’t get the lyrics out of my head:

    “But if we are the Body
    Why aren’t His arms reaching
    Why aren’t His hands healing
    Why aren’t His words teaching
    And if we are the Body
    Why aren’t His feet going
    Why is His love not showing them there is a way”

    Alright – I’ve gotten mushy enough. You keep playing “good cop” and I’ll keep playing “bad cop”, and all will be right with the world 🙂

  10. I forgot to add this –

    As I’ve said before, I fled my former pimp and his plantation 2 months ago, so I’m not in a formal assembly now (just out here crying in the wilderness “prepare the way of the Lord”). I’m looking, but I’m being extremely discerning and taking my time.

    I am more connected with God through His Son Jesus Christ now than I’ve ever been before.

    I told a friend that I’m almost afraid to find another church – I just might lose my edge 😉

  11. ST,

    Yes Yes Yes! I must have that song. I’m feeling that for sure. For me this is simply where it all starts. It has to start with me remembering that I am the church. I am responsible for all that God has shown me to do, said I should and must do. This might sound good-cop like but it actually just makes things run deeper for me. Since I am the church, when I see things off the tracks at the Big House or at the small house for that matter, I must speak up.

    I must question all things coming from leadership, I must not be moved by every wind of doctrine that blows. I certainly will not just go along with error, no matter the cost of speaking truth.

    If thinking is a sin, then send me to hell. If questioning things that are obviously shady means I’m not loyal or somehow have become a hazard, please I’ll leave.

    I encourage you to take your time, spend some time away from the gathering. Think things through and define and develop your theology. Heal! by God, after all that you’ve been through, you need to heal. Trust me, I know.

    Then keep the main thing the main. Always, speaking the truth in love.

  12. The Lord spoke to me one day and said, “don’t just go to church, be the church!” The truth – it took some years to know what the Lord was really saying to me.

    Unfortunately “the church” has become an institution where entertainment is the order of the day, clicks are formed, competition and a spirit of arrogance is in the air and everybody is trying to get their blessings! We tolerate sin (none or a lack of discipline in the church), and we don’t consistently teach or preach about Jesus – whom we suppose to be following and the Kingdom of God.

    We are doing this “church” thing the wrong way and the Lord is in the process of turning it around. I pray that the eyes and ears of the church will be open to believe and receive the change from the Lord or they will truly get left behind!

    You know we were released from our Church last Sunday and everybody believes that we are starting a church. On one hand we are, on the other we are not going to keep duplicating what most ministers do when it comes to pioneering a church.

    The Lord has already given me instructions that we are not going to find a building, meet on Sunday at 10 am and have a Bible Study on Wed at 7 pm.

    God want me to find just a few men and women that want to do His will, no matter the day, time or season. He wants me to find some people that are not afraid to hang out with the bums and homeless on the streets – He wants me to find some people who are will not be afraid to knock on some doors to find out what people needs are and pray with them, read the word with them and ultimately lead them to Jesus. He wants me to find some people that are not afraid of the hospitals, the nursing homes and the assistant living facilities. He wants me to find some people who will not be afraid to go to the “ghettos” and feed a hungry family and care for a fatherless child and rebuke and cast out some demonic spirits in Jesus name. And if I lose my life (and I’m dead already, made alive in Christ for His good pleasure) for doing God’s will, my job, my car, my house…I’m reminded by the Holy Spirit, that Jesus said in Mark 10:29 – 31, Verily I say to you, there is no man that has left house, or brother, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake and the gospel’s. But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brothers, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.

    I’m starting to preach now…you’ll hear more from me – in Jesus name! Get ready yall, the turning of the church is hear! Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand!

    There’s much to say, but Lord knows we, my brothers and my sisters have a lot to do and we must work while it is day!

    Peace be with you all!

  13. @ Tony –

    I can hear your heart in this post.

    Trust me, I feel everything that you’re saying and I agree. We have to be strong enough to buck the “meet on Sunday and Wednesday” tradition and be open to meeting whenever or wherever He sees fit.

    This act of obedience on your part speaks volumes about your heart for God and His work. You’re doing more for the Kingdom by yielding in this way than many mega-edifices do year after year.

    It’s funny, when you “unplug from the Matrix”, your former church colleagues always think you’re going to start another “church” (because that’s what they’re used to).

    It happended when my wife and I left our former church as well.

    @ Caught Thinking –

    I am making a conscious effort to speak truth in love. It’s hard, but I’m trying my very best 🙂

  14. Tony,

    I know it’s frustrating to experience and to witness. we have to commit to be examples. Mark Batterson, of NCC says this and I love it and it’s hard but I’m trying to live it. “Let us criticize by creation” We have a lot to create, don’t we?

    @ ST

    I know it is and I know you are.

  15. Hi Kwesi,
    I do agree with this blog here on Rethinking the question. This is a question I have asked myself and others a million times. We as the church has really not done a lot, well we have built up our own personal kingdom, but have we taken care of the widows and orphans? I think not! We run around asking ” what would Jesus do, we know very well what He would do, then we go out and do the opposite.. So we as the church need to make a change and try to really be the “Church” that the Apostles established. Jay5

  16. I agree with you and everyone here that the idea that I, the person asking the question, can somehow separate myself from the solution or the answer is a delusion.

    The idea of the church remains that it is one body. Everyone is connected and part and parcel of the same IT. So to ask, what is the church doing about X, is a reflective question upon the asker. I think the church has lost this sense of oneness in favor or hyper-individuality. When everyone can run to their corner and say, yeah, this is this way, but that’s not me–what is left is the idea that the church is some entity independent of the people of which it is comprised.

    You guys know that I don’t identify so much as a church member anymore, but I do consider myself part of the collective that is responsible with caring for others, the environment, taking a stand for what is right, being a voice for the voiceless and making a difference where it is in my power to do so. We all share that responsibility–which were Christ’s priorities.

  17. Yes, people are God’s greatest priority and loving people is our greatest responsibility. We all need to own that!

    I’m rethinking church membership!

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