Thursday, July 9, 2009

What's So Important?

I've been thinking quite a bit these days about, well, everything! But one thing that has fascinated me is the Church. There are so many books written about the church: Church history, "doing" church, how to grow your church, how to feed your church, what to look for in a church, why churches are important, why churches are in decline, etc.

I wonder what is the most important part of a church; if one were to set out to join an "ideal" church what would it look like? What would be the one thing above all else that would make you choose a church over another?

Is it the programs, youth group, music, people, facilities, sports offerings, cafe, (yes, some churches have them and even 'food courts') a gym (again, some churches have 'em) creative arts, drama, kids choir, adult choir, good coffee, or great band?

Is it Biblical preaching? The Pastor and staff? I was amazed this morning while in conversation to hear from a former worship pastor that he received all kinds of emails complaining about the music! Music! To me, this is a non issue, but in conversation later with my husband, he pointed out that there have been major divisions in the church stemming from music. It's important!

For me, if someone were to have asked me what was most important a few months ago, I'd have said Biblical preaching. I anticipate listening to a great sermon and I do enjoy it when it's told creatively but beyond that I want to listen to good preaching where I am asked to open to a chapter and verse and glean truth from the Word through the study of the Pastor.

And yet... is that the main point of going to church? I don't know anymore. Recently in the area I live a well known pastor who has authored several books and has a radio ministry decided to be head, or teaching, pastor at a local church. I don't know all the details, all I know are rumors but supposedly over 600 new members joined the church before his arrival. I've heard that he's only going to preach about 65% of the time. (not sure if that's correct) and since the church is large, I wonder how many of the congregation he's really expected to get to know? Even to hear excellent Biblical preaching from a person who was famous, I'd not leave my church. First, I'm fortunate enough that my pastor is an excellent preacher. Secondly, because I now realize there is so much more than just a great or inspired teacher. WIth the internet and itunes, I no longer need to even set foot in any church; I have access to some of the best Biblical teaching around, all free. If its only about excellent expository preaching then I don't even have to step outside my home to enjoy that.

So, if it's not about the preaching being the most important thing, what is it? What makes your church so wonderful you want to stay? Tell me; I'm interested.


  1. Hi, I'm glad to know you are a blogger! I believe that there are many good churches where we live, and there are many reasons why people choose their home church. For us it has always been a bit of a gut feeling, the church's personality, flavor and culture. My family and I are somewhat laid-back, don't like a lot of laws thrown at us, enjoy easy going, real people and we get a feel for it almost immediately. Of course it has to be rooted and grounded in the Word, I like good preaching, Everett likes good worship, but it is secondary to "feeling like we belong here." I believe this feeling is the Holy Spirit saying "This is where I want you" and it could be for so many reasons: how someone is going to bless us, how we are going to bless others, a "test" that we may have to go through and God knows this church would be a good place for it, etc, etc. I'll read more later!

  2. great blog Vic! For us, we found a church here in Georgia that really feels like family (which was important since we have none here), great biblical preaching, and an awesome worship band. Yes, we can get great teaching and music off of the internet now, but we would miss out on the awesome fellowship that you get from going to church. Also, I think it is great to be a part of a church that really looks outside of its own walls and wonders how it can make a difference in the community.

  3. With all the books you've read concerning church, etc have you read "Total Church" by Steve Timmons? I haven't read it in it's entirety, but from what I have read and listened to him on vidcast - he has some good points on how church as it is known is wrong, and that church is community, and it isn't about being an individual as a part of the "church" but a collective group... I don't agree one hundred percent with what he has to say (mainly because I struggle with that idea of complete community), but it is worth while to consider. Ultimately it doesn't matter the teaching, music, programs, any of the a, b, c's (although they need to be there and biblically based) - what matters is the community and how we are supposed to operate within that community.

    What books would you recommend to read, that you've found to be useful on this subject??

    Church, how it is done, what makes one, what should and shouldn't be included is a hot topic for Guillaume and I right now, and we are navigating through trying to identify key elements.

  4. Wow.. I haven't even checked my blog recently!

    Silvia, I love what you have to say. I know for us within the few times we visited we knew that TOC was a good church for us. Well, actually, David decided that. I tried really had to not listen to the preaching but it's hard not to listen!

    Suzie, So glad you have found a church that is family. I have enjoyed reading your FB updates and blog and can really see how the church has become your family and am so happy for you. Miss you though and wish you weren't so far away.

    Ellie, Oh wow! Agreed that it is much more than the programs or any other thing that churches "offer. I have read Total Church and really enjoyed it. (though I think he used Matthew 18 out of context but most books on house churches do so to justify that "2 or 3 gathered' justifies a church the Holy Spirit is present in.)
    I loved the first half of Total Church but had a harder time with certain parts of it. I love community but I am not sure I love complete all access community. I guess I'm still a bit autonomous and individualistic.
    As for a list of books, oh yes! I have read several. Most I did not agree with 100% but many provided great insight and ideas and thoughts to think of. Here's my list.

    1. Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis It's pretty well grounded and not too "emergent-y".. not that emergent/emerging is bad of course. ;-)

    2. The Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter and Matt Sway

    3. The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. I don't know if I could ever live like this guy advocates but I definitely respect him and what he's doing. Here's a quote.

    "It is a beautiful thing when folks in poverty are no longer just a missions project but become genuine friends and family with whom we laugh, cry, dream, and struggle. "

    4. The Rabbit and the Elephant by Tony and Felicity Dale and George Barna Just more perspective.

    5. Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community by Andrew Marin. Like Irresistible Revolution, this guy (straight) lives and is among the people that he is ministering to. Plus, its just an interesting read.

    6. Franchising McChurch: Feeding our Obsession with Easy Christianity by Thomas White
    "from the outset of the church growth movement. Lyle Schaller pointed out that people are longing for meaningful relationships. If they don't find it at your place they will move on. If they don't find it at several churches, they quit looking. By stressing programs above people, efficient churches can give the impression that not only does the individual not matter, but there may not be a place for someone who may not fit the programmatic molds of the church. " 36

    I'd quote more but they can come across a bit offensive and lengthy.

    7. The Present Future by Reggie McNeal Interesting thoughts.

    8. So Beautiful by Leonard Sweet. This is a harder one to recommend. Thought provoking. Expounds more on our call to be Missional, Relational and Incarnational. He also has a really heavy handed quote by Neil Cole, author of The Organic Church. Not sure I agree with everything.

    9. Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different by Tullian Tchividjian

    10. Revolution by George Barna. A good place to start, reading the statistics make one go OUCH! Disagree with some points, though.

    There are others that talk more extensively about culture and how Christians should play a role in shaping culture. It's all interconnected to a large degree, and I think these would give an interesting perspective. I do happen to have most of these titles if you'd like to borrow any.