When you hear the word "church" do you only think "religion?" Or does it make you think of something unmentionable?
Do you have fond memories of a church or it's service? Do you harbor bad memories caused by a bad experience? What feelings do you have when people invite you to join them in church?
I want to know.
I'm not sure if I can offer anything to really define or classify what church is, and perhaps it's been written about to death to defend a structure that perhaps should die so it can be resurrected again. This might not be the most politically correct thing to say about the profession that I have chosen to be a part of, but perhaps we've been holding onto a concept of church that isn't what Jesus had in mind.
I've given a small series of sermons on a softer version of this question: what is church. My only sound conclusion is church is us, the people who gather to not simply hear a nice sermon, sing a few songs, and give a few bucks over to keep it open for next week. It's a place where we are supposed to offer up the radical hospitality that Jesus taught. This is more than taking a passive role in some "religious service."
Church is about walking to the front lines; loving those who hate, forgiving the unforgivable, feeding, nursing, dressing, and listening to the cries of the voiceless, the jobless, the homeless, the faithless, the worthless. Even if it means it might cost you a couple of bucks, or your life, to do so.
And here I still wonder why people are afraid to join me when I invite them.
I suck at church. But I try every day. I practice and participate. I fail, I fall, and I frequently scream some pretty "un-church-like" words at God. And still, as I sit in my tears, or in my filth, God, who sent his Son to be with me, gives me the Holy Spirit to be within me. So when I want to throw my hands up and quit...I move onward. And go one more day.
Join me, and many madmen like myself, to not simply play church, but to be church. God knows the world needs a little more love.