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Aug 4 2008

What happened to church?

Jamie Barrows

What happened to church? When did church become a chore? When did it become a duty rather than a joy? For many people, church is just that. A place where people go because they have to, rather than because they want to. I don’t mean they don’t want to go. They do, but not because they like it. Rather they want to go because they feel like it is the right thing to do.

But it shouldn’t be that way. Church should be a place we want to be. Attending church should be the highlight of the week. That’s the way it was for the early church. Acts is full of stories about the new believers. And it’s clear that they enjoyed getting together. They didn’t see it as a duty or a chore. They gladly attended every service they could. Thousands would show up to hear the apostles speak and to have fellowship with each other. And it wasn’t about the the facilities, the comfortable seats, or the entertainment. The early churches were meeting in homes and outdoor fields. And yet they clearly had great joy and happiness. Everyone, no matter what their station or class was welcome. It didn’t matter who or what they had done. All that mattered was that they had accepted Jesus. Jesus loved them, and that meant they were family. And all of them enjoyed getting together to worship and enjoy Jesus. So what happened?

Why isn’t it that way today. We sing songs of worship, but we don’t think about what we are saying. The way we sing them is empty and meaningless. It’s just ritual and tradition. Where did the joy go? We fellowship with people at church, but we keep our guard up. We have to make sure we always keep our church face on. Not because our real face is wrong, but because our real face is different. And different people aren’t welcome. Only people who fit the traditional mold are welcome. So church rather than being a place of joy and a family, has become a place of meaningless ritual, tension, and rejection.

I’m not saying all churches are like that. There are exceptions, the one I attend being one of them, but the majority of churches aren’t the happy family they should be. They are judgmental, ritualistic, and depressing. And it shouldn’t be that way.