GOING TO CHURCH or BEING THE CHURCH

Want to see 10 of the most amazing church buildings in the world? I mean “jaw dropping” amazing? Click here

But I can’t seem to get enough of this discussion: Is church supposed to be a place that you GO TO or BELONG TO, or is it more about BEING something or someone?

We get up and tell our kids, “Let’s go to church.” We tell them to put on (or take off) their “church” clothes and put on their “play” clothes. When we talk about church, we talk about it as something you go do instead of something you are.

It seems to me that the early church was more about people than it was about buildings and programs. I’m not anti-building. We have a pretty nice one that has proven to be a tremendous TOOL – but that’s all it really is – a “tool.” But if you take away the people, what do you have? A building! Some sound equipment. Perhaps a nice place to have a reunion or get together. That’s it!

I dream of a kind of church community that realizes that church isn’t something we “go to”, but something we ARE on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc.. And we need to intentionally build this kind of thinking into our church community – all the way from the little kids to the adults.

That means that I need to be focused on BEING the church – loving and accepting people, reaching out in care to others within our church community, focused on being the hands and feet of Jesus right here in our local community and then even further out in our world.

So let me throw this one out there: What do you see as the purpose of church? How do we help people stay focused on BEING the church VS. seeing church as something you ATTEND or GO TO? Is there even an answer to these questions? I don’t have the answers, but I hope we’re asking the right questions.

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Article by Trey Morgan

I am a Christian husband and father, who moonlights as the minister for the church of Christ in Childress, Texas. My wife Lea and I have been married for 25 years. We are doing our best to raise our 4 boys, who are all growing up way too fast. Read 1182 articles by
33 Comments Post a Comment
  1. nb says:

    Let’s face it, the life on the inside of the church walls and the life outside, in the world, just don’t match up. I would like the purpose of the church to be to make the two match. How to do this? Live what you believe.

    I am very weary of people who teach one thing on Sunday and demonstrate something else the other six days of the week. It crumbles me.

    So live what you believe. It’s all about doing. Reach out to those who need help. Do for them what they cannot do for themselves. Show them kindness, love, purpose and worth. Show them hope. Show them Jesus.

  2. Matt says:

    I am reminded of the old AVB song, “You can’t go to church, ’cause the church is you”

    I agree that we are confused about what the word “CHURCH” means but being the CHURCH is way more important to me than using in its proper context. I like what you said in a previous blog about this Church is… an older gentleman who gives his watch instead of just the time. If we acted like the CHURCH and did not leave it to the “Ministers” to do.

    Trey I do have to admit, I am pretty anti-building they are nice but they are such a stumbling block. Just my opinion but I think that our energies could be better spent on people rather than weeding the roses. That could get me in trouble with some of the ladies.

    peace,
    FMtWR

  3. John Roberts says:

    Loved the link to the amazingly beautiful church buildings.

    I agree that building-centered Christianity was probably the worst thing that could have happened to the church. But since we build buildings, I wish more buildings (especially Churches of Christ) were built with more thought given to function and form than bottom dollar, low-bid budgets. (And please, put women on the design committees – too many buildings were obviously designed by men who are aesthetically-challenged.)

  4. lisa leichner says:

    When I was growing up my mother used to be obsessed about teaching us children to not call the building “the church” — “The church is the people, not the building.” It really got annoying after a while!! Ha. But now that I’m older, I realize the importance of using terminology to express the meaning of the church. I notice my kids saying “we’re going to church” even though I try not to say it much, so I’m not sure if they just picked it up one of the few times I have said it or what. It seems legalistic, but I do think the way we talk about “going to church” has affected how we live out our role as the church. There are too many people that only act like the church when they’re “at church,” and maybe we would have that mindset less if we described ourselves better. Just a thought.

    Definitely if we want to fix the problem, we’re going to have to break the cycle NOW and teach our children better … the best way to teach is by example!! It’s hard to turn around a big ship, but we’ll never do it if we don’t try.

  5. Mommysmart says:

    I think that my thinking about this has changed as I have gotten older. I used to believe that any money spent on “stuff” was a waste, but here is an example that change that thinking. I believe that “home” is anywhere my family is together. However, we need a “home” to take care of our practical needs.

    Our church building is spectacular. At first that concerned me, but that place is always in use. There are always bible studies, marriage conferences, financial ministries, and so much more available at the building for healing those in need. If that building offers a place to minister to others then it is worth every penny. We just have to make sure that the “church” are at “church” so that we are most effective to serve when anyone enters.

    So there is my two cents.

  6. nb says:

    Our church building is in use every day of the week also. It’s a very busy place.
    Personally, I like the feeling of safety and comfort that I can find inside the church building. I just wish more of that feeling could spill out into the rest of the world. Make sense? Maybe it’s just me, I don’t know.

  7. Frank Bellizzi says:

    I don’t know. The older I get, the more I like the institutional side of Christianity. Is that bad? Necessarily?

    One thing’s for sure. I don’t care what anybody says, what we DO in those buildings of ours turns them into sacred space. And I don’t think that’s a sign of our sin. I think it’s evidence that gnosticism ain’t so. What I mean is, in spite our indoctrination, every member of the Church of Christ has experienced the truth that architecture has the capacity to alter (altar?!) our perceptions of reality. Why can’t we just go with that?

    No, I’m not for building monuments to God (although the Almighty has commanded that sort of thing in the past). Yes, I get that the church and the building aren’t the same. And yes, I’m all for Christians acting like Christ on Tuesday, etc. It’s just that I think there’s a ditch on both sides of this road.

  8. brian says:

    loved the pictures, especially the one in columbia, I have seen three of them in person….

    one brother here points out that on many church websites, (including ours) you get a picture of the building. He wants us to get a big group picture to put on the site instead.

    Question:
    Are we, or can we be the church alone??

    brian

  9. Bob Bliss says:

    My vote goes for two – Chrystal Cathedral and the Abston Church of Christ. I love the outdoor atmosphere of the Chrystal Cathedral – too bad we can’t worship outdoors. Hooray that we got a mention, even if our “church” was created from LEGOs (I’m surprised that no one has made any comments on the “church of Christ” being plastic).

    I like what Frank says. I have tried to teach folks that holiness is not intrinsic to our buildings but does come about because of the use we make of them.

    Actually we can in one sense say “go to church” and be accurate. The Greek word ekklesia probably meant “assembly” to the man-in-the-street during the first century (Acts 19:33, 41). So we do go to assembly. However, I do realize that the “assembly” is something greater than just the gathering on Sunday. That is what I think Paul in his epistles is emphasizing. We are the “church” or “assembly” 24/7. I think what Frank is saying is that if we do what is right in the institutional portion of the “assembly” then we will be the relational “assembly” the rest of the week. Frank’s ideas may be illustrated in the difference between a house (institutional) and a home (relational). I also like what John Roberts said. As long as we are going to have buildings, let’s make them functional. Let’s also make them so we go grow and adapt them as needs change. One thing is to put more rooms for adult Bible studies (Sun AM, Wed, and other days of the week).

    Lisa’s Mom is still passionate about not saying “let’s go to church” it’s just that she doesn’t have any more kids at home to teach. However, I’m sure once the grandkids get old enough she will start on them.

  10. Liz Moore says:

    I love the pictures of the churches. I too thought of the old AVB song “You Can’t Go to Church, Cause the Church is You” while reading your blog.

    At Highland Oaks our building is used 4 or 5 times a week for various gatherings of the community. I think that’s a great thing. It’s not a holy of holy’s place where only those who are members can come. I think when we “go to church” it’s important to focus on why we are gathering there and who we are gathering there to worship. To allow ourselves to invite the presence of God into our worship and into our lives. More importantly who are we when we leave and are we taking the presence of God with us.

  11. Don says:

    Yeh.

  12. lisa leichner says:

    Brian, my husband spent a semester in Florence (& other places) with Harding’s program and he is forever mentioning the places and things he’s seen that I haven’t. It gets annoying after a while. :o)

    Sorry, Dad, but the Crystal Cathedral looks too much like an office building from the outside with way too much wasted space on the inside. IMO (o;

    I think the Jubilee Church looks pretty cool.

    (I forgot to check out the church buildings when I stopped by earlier.)

  13. jel says:

    Why can’t you have church outside?

    what happen to the old brushharbors

  14. TREY MORGAN says:

    Been out today doing a “Career Day” at the elementary school (more on that tomorrow). Just catching up on a few comments. Looks like great discussion and a great variety of opinions. I appreciate your comments. I learn from them.

    A few of my thoughts:

    NB – Excellent comment and opinion.

    Matt – You’ve done mission work and are going back to do more. Isn’t it amazingly different how many churches in other countries put very little interest in their buildings. Many meeting in homes.

    John, Bob & Brian – They were all cool buildings. I like the one on the post today AND the lego church. How can you not like a Lego church that’s called a church of Christ and is plastic. Good point Bob. Maybe the creator was trying to tell us something.

    Bob – well thought out.

    Monica & Liz – I agree 100% that a building has to be used 24/7. Glad yours is used. If it’s not it’s a waste. Sadly, church buildings are some of the most under used buildings in the world. But does it need coffee shops, fountians, cafe’s, etc (not saying that NRHC does)? But how far do we go? Just a question? Although not really the question on today’s post.

    Frank – Good point. Does this mean I can sit my backpack on the holy table where commuion is served. :)

    Lisa – Your mom “rocks” in my books.

    Jel – Love the “outside” church idea.

    As for websites … yea, I’m always turned off by hitting a church’s website and the picture on the main page is a building instead of people. BUT that’s just me.

  15. Bob Bliss says:

    I wonder what people who are seeking a church think about going to a web site and seeing a picture of the building? Thom Rainer has done some research on making the building “visitor friendly” while not necessarily making it a “Chrystal Cathedral.” I wonder if a picture of the building on the web site gives them a sense of comfort or security because they know what it looks like and what to expect. However, I do agree that we should have pictures of people on the web site for visitors to see when they come to the site.

    Anyone with any research to mention on the subject?

  16. jel says:

    this is just me , but big church scare me , make me feel cold!

  17. Don says:

    bob-
    No research just being where I’ve been.
    A building is the first thing you see in the community. The preacher comes and goes and the members hide pretty good… So the building is the most real identity in a community.

    I am doing stateside mission work and we built a building within the first four years. I just spoke to a man who was helping to fund a building overseas and he asked me why don’t we just meet in a home?

    My answer- same reason you don’t start showing movies in your basement before you build the theater or sell groceries out of your kitchen until you get the store built.

    Building- Big Deal. No real data- just raw data :)

    BTW: Grew up in the church and got smacked on the back of the head every single time I said “go to church” WHACK “You don’t go to church you bring the church with you”…. and I wasn’t even a Christian yet :(

  18. Monalea says:

    I would like to see the signs posted outside of the buildings changed from….

    The Church of Christ

    to

    The Church of Christ meets here

    Monalea

  19. Mommysmart says:

    Trey,

    I know what you mean about the fountain. I remember when I was in High School we visited RHCC and I thought that fountain seemed like a waste of money. I wondered if there weren’t people in the community that could use help. I have to tell you, though, that place has a TON of community outreach. I can’t think of one area that is lacking in the outreach department.

    To my pleasant surprise that fountain has been gone for sometime. They are in the works of creating an enormous kid play area that could probably be argued the same, but I see the benefit to our kids and since we have so much activity going on down there it gives the adults some peace while meeting.

    I enjoyed the comments and discussion on this topic. You may need a part II.

    Monica

    P.S. And yes, we will soon have a coffee shop. Are you an anti-coffee-ite?

  20. TREY MORGAN says:

    :)

    Anti-coffee-ite? No way. Love it. Addicted to it. Wish we had a coffee shop. I’d direct-deposit my check there. Will they let you bring it in to church on Sunday’s?

    As for the fountain … I forgot they had one there. I do love the playground area thought though.

  21. Mommysmart says:

    You will have to come visit us sometime when those strict elders in Childress (love you, Dad) let you have a day off so that we can have coffee in church. That would be wierd, Trey in a pew on Sunday morning in fort worth drinking coffee.

  22. Don says:

    trey-
    Not a complete answer to your question but-
    You teach them about God: Father, Son, Spirit.
    You show them God.
    You promote God.
    Then one day individual Christian by individual Christian at various times “wakes up” from their spiritual stupor and they say- Oh, I get it.

    That’s all I know to do.

  23. Bob Bliss says:

    I vote for Monalea’s suggestion. Perhaps if we preachers made more mention of this fact from the pulpit we could drill it into the hearts and minds of our folks so their actions will match our preaching.

    So Don, is the back of your head flat? Thanks for your thoughts on researching this idea.

  24. preacherman says:

    The reason I preach is to equip the members for ministry so that can built up and go out and minister to someone: neighbor, friends, relatives, co-workers, etc. I feed them hopefully meat so they can grow in their relationship with God so can know Him (not about) but know Him more. Great post brother!

  25. DJG says:

    I don’t have the answer to this…but nobobdy else satisfied me either….

    Being like Jesus..who had no place to lay his head..yet always was surrounded by community…I don’t know how!

  26. TREY MORGAN says:

    Don – Your suggestions are excellent. We’ve just got to keep teaching and preaching.

    Bob – I surfed for an answer to the website question. Nothing.

    Great thoughts today guys!

  27. Chris says:

    Trey, great post. I appreciate your thoughts and your questions. Here is my attempt at a response.

    The purpose of the church is the same as that of its builder and sustainer – to seek and save the lost. The reason we are part of the church is because we once were lost but have now been found.

    Maintaining focus on who we are, the church, depends on the one for which we live, whether it be for self or for God. If we choose to live for self, my opinion is that church becomes something we attend or go to. But, if we choose to live for God then church becomes more than something we attend, it is who we are. As I have stated in my blog, on several occasions, life is not about me, it is about God.

    Focus is a key element in all of this. The type of focus, whether spiritual or worldly, we have determines the view we have concerning things. “Church” becomes a place when our focus is worldly, because worldly people live for self, not for God.

    Enough for now. Hope it makes a little sense.

  28. The Preacher's Household: says:

    Great discussion. Some of my thoughts:
    I agree with John, the building we worshiped at in Phoenix was horribly laid out by one of the members. It had a 5000 seat auditorium and barely room for a 100 in the fellowship hall. It was hardly used during the week at all. There was also an old man that cut out the lights and locked the doors 20 minutes after worship and a parking lot cop that would cuss you out if you tried to talk for long outside.
    One of the teen members we became close to was sexually abused in the pews when she was younger. The concept of the building not being the church was a hard but important lesson for her to learn.

    One of the members in one of our churches recently said, “A lot of problems would be solved if the building burned down.” In my opinion, if a building is keeping you from doing anything then there are alot of things that need to be changed. Mostly inviting God help correct your attitude.

    I vote for the part 2 on this.
    Also, I have seen NRCC used in many ways.
    Kathy

  29. The Preacher's Household: says:

    I also meant to mention that I purposely included the church building in the picture of our house on our blog. It is an extension of our house. We spend lots of time there and people identify us with it. It’s part of our home.
    Kathy

  30. The Preacher's Household: says:

    I too thought of the AVB song. Was it drilled in our brains or what?

    As for the sign saying “The Church of Christ Meets Here”, in theory it is good. BUT, it tends to have a connotation that in my experience is legalistic and narrow minded. I’M NOT SAYING ANY OF YOU ARE. It is just the message that sign has conveyed historically.

    I am with everyone who has pointed to planning and building with purpose. RHCC is a great example of this historically. I think we church of christ did this though unfortunately. So many were worried about not appearing … and or were self-centered. Everything was thought about but the things that needed to be.

    I am not anti-building either. I wish we would really use them. We have no fellowship are for all intent and purpose. We have those classrooms with dividers and a kitchen smaller than any in apartments I’ve ever seen. We looked at the fesability of building a ‘fellowship hall’ a few years ago. It was too cost prohibitive at the time and still is. I suggested we take out the pews and carpet the whole ‘auditorium’ and use it as a multi purpose room. We have a room off it that could easily be converted to a kitchen(it already had water, sewer and electric and room for a kitchen. But we have to have the pews.

    I will try to keep from preaching or tune it down but notice the focus. We have to have a room that is used three to four hours out of 168 hours each week. So little time. And we have to dedicate tht space. Why don’t we just call it a sanctuary! Our actions betray us.

    And what is the point of those fixed seats that are 22 feet long taking up space. We were using our building for something great when we moved here. It was the main polling place in our city. There were three others but it was the main one. Because our classroom/fellowship hall was not big enought they moved. We could have continued having people come in and see we are not going to bite them if we had more sight. …

    James
    altwit

  31. TREY MORGAN says:

    I know this is way off the subject but I’d love to visit some of these buildings. We visited the Basillica in Mexico City 2 years ago. Wow.

  32. The Preacher's Household: says:

    Did you look at the faq on the church of christ site? I especially like one. Why is there an organ? My thought was why is there a narthex?

    James

    It is a cool building though. And the Mexico City Basilica is too, but he old church by the zocalo is better to me. There is a chapel that used to be open to the public at times in Fort Worth at approx. Hulen and I 30. My favorite is a chapel carved into the side of a hill outside Sedona Arizona. It is just in the side of the red rocks.

  33. The Preacher's Household: says:

    At least the lego girl packed the pews. It looks like a preacher’s count.
    Kathy

About Me

Trey Morgan Here are my thoughts about marriage, family, raising children, humor, faith and the life God intended for us all. I am a Christian husband and father, who moonlights as the minister for the church of Christ in Childress, Texas. My wife Lea and I have been married for 25 years. We are doing our best to raise our 4 boys, who are all growing up way too fast.

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