I was out for pints with a new friend last week and during the conversation, he asked, “What type of church do you work with?” That’s when my brain started spinning.
While it should be a topic I love talking about, the question is challenging for a few reasons. For example:
1) I’m not currently working with a church. While we were sent from our church in New York, and are here planning to start one…nothing currently exists, so it’s difficult to describe.
2) Then there is the idea of explaining type. Labels and other ‘church words’ carry a lot of baggage, and often mean different things to different people. When you hear words like, “evangelical, charismatic, contemporary, or bible-based” you likely have different ideas about what those things mean depending on whether you happen to be part of a church that uses those descriptors. Actually, take two people in an evangelical church, ask them what evangelical means, and you’ll be likely to get a couple of different answers.
So, in answering the question, I did what I’ve done in the past…I began describing the church we lead back in New York.
In reflecting back on the conversation later, I realised that everything I did to describe this picture of church had to do with the Sunday worship event. How we dress, the type of music we had, etc.
Now, part of that comes from a desire to find a common point of understanding to build on. But I don’t think that happens as often as we think it might.
It was later on that I began thinking about what those type of conversations probably sound like to most people.
While I think to those of us who’ve found something good in contemporary churches, those differences can be important.
But the image that came into my head later that night was a person trying to describe these new huts they are building…”and instead of dirt floors, we use grass floors.”
And while the distinction might seem important to you, for people who have no desire to live in a hut, your cosmetic changes don’t make living in a hut any more attractive.
So I’ve been reflecting on this from the book of Acts a bit since then…
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)
When we first starting thinking about a church here in Clontarf, one of the core ideas was that it would not be “Sunday-centric.” (meaning Sunday worship was not going be the core of the church). And yet, when I’m describing the church we were part of in New York, I default to describing Sundays.
When I read that passage from Acts, what always grabs me is this picture of people living life together. Corporate worship was a part of that life…but that’s it…a part. Attendance at that event wasn’t the central purpose or goal of this community.
Now that I’ve been able to stop thinking about taxes for a while, this is what I’m thinking about…I’ll work on unpacking this over the next few weeks. Love to hear your thoughts.
The image above is from inside the chapel at Dublin Castle.