Sunday, December 3, 2023

Bored in Church: The Evolving Concept of ‘Church’

By Jeff Arnette

    The term “church” often conjures images of grand spires, stained glass windows, and echoing halls of worship. However, beyond the architectural marvels and historical significance, lies the heart and soul of what truly defines a church: its community. In an age where individualism often reigns supreme, understanding the true essence of the church becomes pivotal. It’s not just a physical space but a living, breathing entity forged from the bonds of its believers.
    The perception of ‘church’ in the present age has undergone significant transformation. In a world where experiences are often tailored to individual preferences, the church too faces the challenge of being perceived through a lens of personal satisfaction. For many modern believers, ‘church’ simply denotes a weekly routine. A place where they attend services, like the songs, talks, and ways of worship in their church.
    Such a viewpoint is problematic because it narrows down the expansive idea of the church to mere personal enjoyment. Narratives like “I didn’t enjoy worship today” because the hymns weren’t to one’s liking exemplify this narrow viewpoint. Such opinions often neglect the broader community, focusing solely on individual experiences and preferences.
    Yet, at its core, the church isn’t just an institution or a weekly routine; it’s a congregation, a collective of diverse individuals united by faith. This community, often referred to as the ‘body of Christ’, is characterized by diverse believers coming together in shared faith and purpose. It celebrates a multiplicity of backgrounds, experiences, and preferences, which naturally means that not every aspect of a service will resonate with every individual.
    Unity in such a diverse body doesn’t imply uniformity. The church encourages shared worship and praise but also recognizes and respects the varied spiritual journeys of its members. However, when individual preferences start overshadowing communal worship, the essence of the church as a collective body is at risk.
    For instance, while one might not personally resonate with a particular hymn, it could be spiritually uplifting for another member. Similarly, a sermon that doesn’t personally “feed” an individual might be the exact message another congregant needed to hear. Thus, to truly engage with the church means to look beyond oneself, to actively participate in the community’s collective worship, even if it sometimes moves outside one’s comfort zone.
    Embracing this understanding prompts a shift in perspective. It challenges believers to see the church not just as a place that caters to personal spiritual needs but as a vibrant community where they play an active role. It’s about being a part of something bigger, about participating in a divine fellowship that transcends individual needs, and truly cherishes the spirit of collective worship.

- Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

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