I updated my facebook status this morning along these lines:
“In Australia there are so many reasons not to go to church… in summer its too hot, in winter its too cold and wet, in autumn and spring its too beautiful a day to spend inside… and then there’s today where its just too butt ugly out there to want to go anywhere… looking forward to being with the crew on this squally Perth morning.”
Its a very ugly day here in Perth, blowing a gale, hailing and raining. (The first day of the abalone season and as I write a search is underway just 400m from home for an Asian guy who went in the water this morning and didn’t come out. Last I saw they were sending scuba divers in so its not looking pretty. Tragic to lose life over a shellfish.)
But back to church…
As I sat with the QBC crew today I had one of those profound moments of realisation that what we do by turning up every week matters. It really matters. Not in an attendance register / taking the roll kind of way, but in a committed to one another kind of way, in a lifestyle forming kind of way, in a countercultural choosing kind of way.
My facebook status alludes to the fact that its a choice that is easy not to make in our culture, because there are many reasons to choose things other than being together. And to be honest at times I have found the framing of this choice a bit difficult to swallow. When framed legalistically / dutifully I begin to zone out and lose interest, but when we speak in terms of forming our corporate identity and of practicing disciplines that form us into Christlikeness then I am all ears.
I’m not overly worried whether its Sunday, Monday or Thursday evening that we gather, but rather that we choose to do it and that we enter it in our mental diaries as a non-negotiable. That’s a harder line than I have taken in the past, but in the last few years I’ve increasingly seen ‘turning up’ as the first step in becoming a community. If we can’t ‘turn up’ then we are seriously screwed before we even leave first base.
We live in an era where regular church attendance (a crappy term I know…) is probably considered to be 1 week in 3, or if you’re really committed, then fortnightly. As a result we have lost some of the positive energy that goes with being a church community. Fragmentation in wider society is reflected in church culture where we no longer have the same bonds.
I also see the weekly discipline (because it is just that some weeks) as something that informs and forms my children. They see us practice things that matter to us and in their heads they will inevitably conclude that commitment to a Christian community as a non-negotiable in our week is a priority. While there are no guarantees with kids, my hunch is that if they don’t see that in us then I imagine it will be less likely to form in them.
There have been plenty of mornings I have woken up and not felt at all like joining the crew at church. I have felt more like sleeping late, hitting the beach and simply doing ‘what I want’. Its not that I can’t do any of those things at other times, but sometimes I just don’t like the sense of commitment that goes with… well… ‘commitment’…
I wonder how we would go as the church if were able to have both a strong commitment to mission and a strong commitment to Christian community? I see one as shaping and sparking the other and vice versa. We can pick up the ‘mission ball’ at the expense of the ‘community’ ball, but when we begin to choose either/or I think we slowly amble into a world of our own preferences.
Some stuff is hard and we just need to do it.
That said, every morning when I woke up and thought ‘church… blech…’ and chosen to be there I have found myself encouraged and reminded that this is stuff that matters.
I’ve started running again and its the same feeling. Sometimes you just can’t be bothered. Its cold, wet and much nicer in front of the telly, but no one becomes the person they hope to be making the easy choices all the time.