Does Church Shape Us, Or Do we Shape The Church?

One of the things I’ve grown passionate about with our church is to really spell out and communicate our church practices. As it is these types of practices form us into certain kinds of people. So when we pray together, participate in Eucharist together, camp together, sing songs, give our money, include our children and stand with the poor — these things inevitably shape us into certain kinds of people. My hope has been that by articulating the how and not letting up, that it would actually work. That it would actually shape people.

I’m just not convinced anymore that it actually works. I get that our practices shape us in one way, but I mean I’m not convinced that the practices that we practice are at all helpful into forming us into Christians anymore.

Church is just a place to go once a week where we can do a bunch of things that make us still feel like we are doing the right things, so that we can go back to not doing those things for the other 98.8% of our time (assuming we are at church for a couple hours a week). Something that you only do for 1.2% of your life is not something that is forming you. It’s something that has already been formed by your other 98.8% of your time.

So the question we must ask ourselves. Is not how is church forming us, but how are we forming church? What are we making church be for us. When you look at it that way – it’s a bit more bleak.

When you only give it a few hours, practices become co-opted by everything else rather than having any formative power. Tithing becomes about maintaining the institution. Praying becomes about hearing ourselves talk. Singing becomes about being entertained. Eucharist becomes about spiritual checklists. The sermon becomes about justifying the 98.8% of our lives we aren’t there. Camping becomes about a vacation. The poor become about patting ourselves on the back (when we actually do anything). Potlucks become about lunch. Baptism becomes about getting into heaven. Being there is about fixing our loneliness.

The things that actually shape us is our jobs, our day-to-day relationships, our salaries, our homes, our shopping, our hobbies and our entertainment. All these things come to us already being pre-formed by middle class privilege, education, culture, patriarchy, wealth, ideologies and religion. There is much bigger things at play when you look at it this way. The place we find ourselves come pre-filled with all sorts of formative practices that are entrenched in the values of the reigning ideology.

So when church is just something we do for a couple of hours a week, it is rendered helpless to the competing practices. Church ends up being formed and shaped by everything else and has no hope at actually being a place that can do anything different. It is no wonder that Christians look no different from the rest of the world. Church ends up becoming no different for Christians than going to a sports game is for a non-Christian. Church ends up being just another activity that we do that unable to be or do anything else.

One Comment

  • You sound like life is getting you down and that wouldn’t be unusual for a pastor. It’s a very negative view of all the faith based activities you touch on. Not entirely accurate either in my humble opinion. There is nothing new under the sun. This gets hashed out somewhere on the planet every day. I think you need to start a faith based, self sustaining commune so people can live a life around the center of the church and have all things in common! Also not a new idea. ?

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