Have you seen the picture of a church building that has been shared often on social media, with the caption, "Church is not something you go to. It's a family you belong to."? I like it, and I agree with its statement. But I have a question. If you believe in the message of this picture, then how do you live out your faith? What does it mean to "belong to" the church family?
There are a lot of people now-a-days that are not involved with the church as a whole. Whether we talk about the "Nones" or the "Dones". They don't participate in worship regularly or very many other church activities and in some cases, none at all. They believe in God, but not in the institution of church. Or some say they are spiritual but not religious. And I often hear or see those same people using the statement in this meme or the statement "I'd rather be the church than go to church."
So, if people are not interested in attending worship and other ministries of the church, what does it mean to "be" the church? If the church is a family that you "belong to", what does "belong to" mean?
I like the church, it's traditions and being involved in the church. But I also believe in the statement of this meme and in "being" the church in daily life. I also understand and believe that the church has to be open to rethinking some of the ways that we "be" the church. The message of the Gospel hasn't changed and our mission from Jesus Christ hasn't changed, but how we live that mission out daily has. And for many going to church (which for most, means going to worship) or being involved in a church isn't relevant anymore, so what does this meme and others like it really mean to those who "like" & share it on social media?
As we celebrate the 500th year since the reformation, let’s think about how God is reforming the church now and for the next 500 years. I think the word “belong” needs some thoughtful prayer, consideration and caring conversation by those deeply involved in the church, the leaders of the church and with those who are considered “Nones” & “Dones”. As there was 500 years ago, when Martin Luther nailed his thoughts & questions to the church door, there are many people outside the church doors today who “belong” to a church, but are not “going to” or involved in a church family. Or at least not in the way that those inside the church doors see it. And many of them also don’t feel welcome inside the church doors. The Reformation continues! What does it mean to “belong” to the church family? How does faith formation need to be reformed? If you are willing to share your thoughts I would love to listen and have a caring conversation with anyone interested whether on our Facebook Group or in person. Thanks.
Deacon Jamie Travers, St. Olaf Lutheran Church, Devils Lake, ND