Interesting Discussion with Believers
So, a very good friend of mine (a U.S. Army chaplain) posted a discussion on his Facebook page from his religious blog about church attendance, the excuses people make for not going, and asking if it were necessary for Christians to go to church. Here are the replies:
Me: Good question. I'm honestly one of the least religious people I know (although I never stand in someone's way when believing and I hope my lack of faith doesn't diminish anyone's opinion of me). One verse that I feel kind of helps that question is Matthew 18:20 "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." I think if you're a believer, worship can happen anywhere, anytime and as long as there is good fellowship, BOOM! you got yourself a church.
Person 1: Where did you get this idea of "instant church," Tyler? Was it something you came up with or did you learn it somewhere?
Person 1: By the way, Tyler, you have fun tastes in movies and books!
(Well, yeah. That's because movies and books are awesome.)
Me: My mom. Why? Am I wrong?
Me: I also remember it being mentioned at my church as a kid.
Person 2: I'm so glad to hear someone saying this. It is a very hard thing to teach youth today because it is so counter-cultural. A lot of Christian kids today don't even grow up in church anymore because their sports get in the way. I once worked with a girl who said "my parents are Christians and I played basketball growing up". Christians need to live out their faith in community; we need the church.
Person 2: Oh, and in response to the idea of "instant church" I beleive we need the organized religion part of church in our lives to help guard us against wrong beleif and because they alone have the authority to administer the sacraments.
Person 1: Well, Tyler, Jesus wasn't talking about what constitutes a church there. The stuff he said immediately surrounding that was actually emphasizing the need to keep churches safe from people who claim to be christians but are harming other people without remorse. I wanted to know where the idea came from because so many people these days just invent your own religious beliefs. Tyler, what keeps you and your family spiritually nourished in your life?
Me: Good discussion. Growing up, I was involved in a very small non-denominational church. No snakes or speaking in tongues or anything like that. Just a bunch of older folks hanging out worshiping and spreading the word. It was a really comfortable setting. What turned me off to church in the last decade was the idea of these super-churches. I just feel that something gets lost in the message when there are thousands of people. It's a lot less personal.
Personally, since Daniel asked, I am a non-believer. I wouldn't go so far as to use the "A" word since that would take complete certainty and none of us will know for sure until the day comes. When it comes to believing, I really tried, but I just couldn't get past certain things about it. I don't know that the reply space here could hold everything that swims around in my head, but you get the idea.
Me: And by the whole "instant church" thing, I didn't mean you can just start your own sect. It's not like you get two of your buddies together and you have the First Church of Steve or something. I just mean that I know guys who have to work on Sundays and they get together with their pastor during the week in small groups and do their worship service then. Other folks feel isolated when they attend a big church service, like I mentioned before, and would rather worship in a smaller group. Other people might be bedridden and can't go to a church service. There's a number of different situations that could apply to that idea.
Person 1: Ah, I see where you are coming from, Tyler. Lot of folks are isolated from others, and I remember that at one of the churches I went to when younger had a group of folks who would go out and take communion to people who were bedridden. Practically everyone I know feels like a big o' service is not a "small setting" time but they do like the higher energy it has. Sound to me that you may not be an atheist, Tyler-perhaps you're agnostic. Shoot, perhaps you want to believe but aren't clear on how some issues could be resolved. Any of this accurate???
Person 2: Oh, I agree, there's a ton of energy at the bigger services. However, some folks live really high energy lives and find a good deal of escape from that in a smaller church.
Me: Yeah, you're pretty much on the mark. Years ago, I wanted to believe. Now, after Iraq, I just want to survive life and see where it takes me. Agnostic would probably be a little more accurate. The truth is, I take a lot of comfort in not knowing. What if you're right? What if I'm wrong? What if we're all wrong? The only way to know for sure is to die, and I'm not in any big hurry for that.
I think it's important to remember that people have changes of heart. I've read the Bible completely and re-read most of it. Thirty years from now, I could wake up and realize I've been missing something and turn back to the church. Likewise, anyone could wake up thirty years from now and become an apostate. Never count out the possibility of possibility.
I'm just glad this discussion has remained civil. I have mad respect for you guys, especially (friend), for the passion and conviction you all have. Even though I'm not in the same boat, it's not an issue. You'd be surprised at the number of people who turn pretty hostile at the idea of talking to someone who is not a believer.
You guys are awesome.
So, I was very pleased with the nature of the discussion. Although, I know they probably prayed for my soul after reading this, it never turned nasty. I think it helped that I wasn't on the attack. As many of you know, it's not easy to be open about our non-beliefs without being berated by the righteous. However, I have not heard my friend's two-cents on the matter. I'm hoping I didn't just burn a bridge.