This post is from the defunct blog “Dying Church”
I chatted with someone the other week about the church. I teased him by asking, "How was church yesterday?" He teased back: "Great!" We both knew that he didn't attend any church – at least in the conventional sense. When I probed a bit further, he said, "How can I go to the church when I am the church?" He's right and he's wrong. The church isn't somewhere you go; it's something you are. But no one person is the church. This struck me as I read an article at Christianity Today about Baylor University, of all things:
…we have dined too long at the Enlightenment table, without setting richer food alongside its meager fare. Our failure to contest Enlightenment individualism, for instance, has landed us in ludicrous heresies. Luther's classic doctrine of the priesthood of all believers is a case in point. It has been corrupted into the heretical and essentially Gnostic idea of the priesthood of the solitary believer. Instead of serving as priests to each other in obedience to our one High Priest (and thus engage in the radically communal life of the church and its institutions), each individual is supposed to become his own priest… To be free is to conform our lives to the will and way of God. And while this freedom may begin with a sudden conversion, it cannot be sustained apart from a lifelong participation in the communal life of the people of God.
I'm not sure that the institutional church is doing a good job of providing that communal life, but the solution isn't to retreat into isolation either. One of our challenges is to discover what it means to be a true faith community once again – not a church (that word's got too much baggage) but a group who really do participate in the "communal life of the people of God."