Every year, I take an annual trip with my friends from college, my very conservative, religious college. Since all of us went there and most still ascribe to those religious beliefs of a faithful three times a week church-goer, we went to church. The church we go to when we are on vacation is the same church that we’ve gone to for all 7 years of our trips. We’ve learned the people, we’ve watched children grow into young adults, and we can even tell the attitude of the people…all from our once a year visits. Let me tell you though, this church is not a place to go to be enlightened, inspired, or challenged…it’s a place to go to see friends, discuss life and hard times, and family issues. It’s a community not a church.
I strongly believe that churches can function successfully as a communal outlet. This particular area, however, is ravaged with poverty and crumbling social structures, and when they actually get a chance to be around friends and family to have a moment of quite and peace, the last thing the need is two songs, a prayer, and a sermon.
They need to have conversation with people who have a similar faith, and they cannot do that effectively when it is crammed into this formal set up of ‘church.’ I can’t speak for them on why they feel the need to follow the typical worship service setup, but my guess would be because like most Christians, they’ve begun worship the traditions. So what do these people, who for some reason feel compelled to have ‘church’ do to satisfy their need for community? They have the set up, but the sermon becomes a living active conversation, even though it’s just through “Amens!” and other encouraging exclamations, and the topic often ventures off into some cultural aspect of their society (last week is was men who lie to women to get their money).
As I sat there, I couldn’t help but think of how much more effective this could be if those 20 people were sitting around a table talking about God, society, Jesus, and work. Side note—it would also provide an outlet for the women, who in the Church of Christ, are generally prohibited from speaking publicly during formal worship times.
We all need some form of community. I believe that church can be a community, but I do not think that community as a church has to fit into a mold of a worship service, and a lot of people are suffering from a weak community because of the strain that we put upon it.