Summary: What is church? If I asked you that question this morning how would you answer? In just one word – what would you say? Boring, irrelevant, out of date, hypocritical – or would you say that it is a place of joy, hope, love, companionship, caring?
On Sunday 31 May – which was Pentecost Sunday, the BBC showed a service from Kingsgate Community Church in Peterborough. It’s quite a large, dynamic, vibrant church and they were holding a baptismal service.
The following day, Chris Moyles, who is a Radio 1 DJ who presents the breakfast show mentioned the service on air. He’d seen it on tv the day before – and what he’d seen had completely blown him away. The whole discussion on air is about 10 minutes – but just so that you can get a feel of how taken he was with what he saw – I’ve condensed it to about 2 minutes.
Did you get all that? He was totally blown away with the joy, the excitement, the reality of people in relationship with Jesus Christ. His colleague said that the down side of church was that it was normally boring – and Chris Moyles says ‘I want to go’ and they start a conversation about baptism. And as I said the whole conversation lasted about 10 minutes – on the breakfast show – Radio 1.
And it just emphasised in my own mind what a negative view people often have of church. What a complete misunderstanding people have of who we are and why we are.
An older sister was sitting next to her younger brother in Church one Sunday morning unsuccessfully trying to keep him still and quiet. Finally she said, “I wish you would calm down.” “I can’t”, he said, “it’s just so boring.” And his sister turned and said, “It’s supposed to be boring.”
Then there’s the story about a little boy in church with his mother. He was a good little boy, quiet & well behaved. He didn’t cause any problems. But every once in a while he would stand up in the chair, turn around, look at the people behind him & smile at them. His smile was infectious, & soon everybody behind him was starting to smile back at him, too. It was all going fine until the mother realized what the little boy was doing. When she did, she grabbed him by his ear & twisted it a bit, told him to sit down & remember that he was in church. Then he started sniffling & crying, & she turned to him & said, "That’s better."
It’s sad, isn’t it, that many people have the impression that when we come to church that it is all gloom & doom, & that there is nothing here to really bring joy into our lives?
The perfect church
What is church? If I asked you that question this morning how would you answer? In just one word – what would you say? Boring, irrelevant, out of date, hypocritical – or would you say that it is a place of joy, hope, love, companionship, caring?
The truth is, there is no perfect churches. No matter where you go, you’re going to find things that you like and you’re going find things you don’t like. You could go to one of these new megachurch’s, hear the contemporary music, see the flashing lights, With all the guitars and drums, and lights and choirs and technological wizardry. And say, "Yeah! Praise the Lord – this is Church!" Then again, you could go and say, "They call this noise ’music?’– this is no church!"
What is church?
So what is a church? In modern day Britain there are many different types and styles and flavours and expressions of this thing called church. Church in a pub, Café church, Goth church, internet church – quiet churches, loud churches, traditional churches, contemporary churches, cultural churches.
So what is church? How do we define church? Is it something we come to on a Sunday that has a definite order of service, a distinctive style of worship or type of preaching. Maybe, but church is more than that. Is it somewhere where we come to catch up on all the latest news and gossip of the past week – a bit like a social club. Maybe, but church is more than that.
Perhaps church is just a place for the great Ceremonial occasions, the ritual, the performance. Hatch em, match em, and dispatch em. Baptisms, weddings, and funerals. The great ritual moments of life. But church is far more than that.
Tourists at Westminster Abbey
Is church for you a place that is filled with history and tradition, that must never be altered, or tampered with, or changed in any way less the mystery of the faith be lost – No better example of a church rich in history and tradition is Westminster Abbey. One day a tour group being shown the Abbey. They were shown all the symbols of Britain’s history. They saw the place where the monarchs are crowned. They visited the tombs and the memorials to the nation’s greatest. It was a wonderful trip backwards in time. But then one member of the tour group asked the guide a searching question. She said, “Sir, this is all very fine, but has anybody been saved here lately?”