What Does “Real” Church Look Like?

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:25)

What does “Real” church look like?

Those of us who have given up on traditional, weekly meetings in a brick-and-mortar building are fully aware of what “Real” church looks like to many, many Christians:

Eyrie inspirational original oil painting of Grand Canyon sprite facing sunrise by Steve Henderson licensed wall art home decor at icanvas, framed canvas art, great big canvas, amazon.com, art.com, posterhero, prints.com, vintage art, fulcrum gallery and allposters.com

Worship, joy, adoration of God, support of one another — we limit ourselves when we limit church to a particular building, closed group of people, or denomination. Eyrie, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed wall art home decor at Prints.com, Fulcrum Gallery, iCanvas, Art.com, AllPosters, and more.

It’s in a building, generally Sunday morning.

You get handed a bulletin by an usher, but you don’t have to read it, because within 20 minutes, an elder or deacon will arise and repeat any pertinent news (upcoming work days, mid-week small groups, leadership meetings) that you are expected to attend. (Metro churches may be able to send this information to your phone; but someone will still read it aloud. A sign of a Real, Excellent church is that it keeps up with technology because that’s what people are looking for, the material written for pastors avers. That, and lots of specialized, age and lifestyle-specific group activities.)

You sit. Until the minute hand points to the 12 or 6, depending upon your local “community,” you may talk to your neighbors around you. Once the music starts — originating from the raised platform, ahead — it’s time to shush and hush. (Short, simple statements are popular, incidentally, like “Prayer and Share,” “Flex and Obey,” “Walk the Talk.” It’s a God Thing.)

Corporate Worship

In front of you is a large white screen with words on it. Sing those words.

You will alternate between singing, listening to announcements, enjoying a “special,” and possibly being allowed to express yourself through raising your hand and “sharing,” until it is time for the pastor, generally in a suit but sometimes in a clerical robe, to bounce up to the platform, adjust the microphone behind his tie, and begin to speak (this is either “teaching,” or “preaching,” depending upon your denomination). Remember the introductory joke throughout the week; it’s the key to the lesson.

After the final song and prayer, you may leave — either to head home and do errands and work you couldn’t get to during the week, if Adult Sunday School was before the service (you did attend, didn’t you?), or to ASS. The children, the same way they are during the week at public school, are divided according to age and grade. There is no time to freely associate, because there is much managed, appropriately directed fellowship that needs attention.

A Couple Hours a Week

Such is many people’s answer to Hebrews 10:25, the verse custom-made to impose acquiescence upon those who, for some reason, tire of the program above, and ache to meet and interact with other believers in different, meaningful ways. (By the way, it is nominally acceptable to meet together in a “house church,” since that is our impression of how the first century Christians did it, but the morning’s itinerary must mimic the Real Church version. And it’s fully understood that you’re only meeting in homes until you find a Real Church to fully meet your needs.)

If it seems shallow or empty, be reminded that, in order to fully immerse yourself in the Christian experience, you must take advantage of mid-week small groups (which are the abiding trend even within churches whose population is small enough to qualify as a small group in a mega-church) and fellowship in a slightly more relaxed, but still managed and appropriately directed manner.

Any loneliness, frustration, isolation, alienation, ennui, detachment or apathy you experience is your fault, because if you fully participated in all the organized and purposeful activities — the ones which you are qualified to attend, that is — then you would be receiving all the necessary encouragement that Hebrews 10:25 promises.

As some churches reluctantly acknowledge (because people are either sleeping or leaving) that the rigidly prescriptivist approach is a bit . . . frigid, they’re adding fun things like candles, incense, open mic, and comfy couches (sip your latte!) to the worship experience. There should be something for everyone, and if you still feel . . . incomplete, remember that this is your fault.

No Real church is perfect you know.

But you must attend one.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes where I encourage Christians, whether they attend a conventional weekly church meeting or not, to make their individual relationship with Christ their priority. Read the Bible for yourself. Pray, by speaking with God, who doesn’t insist upon our using “Thee” and “Thou.” Don’t stop until you find out why this is called the Good News.

Posts complementing this one are

When Christian Leaders Say “Jump!” Do We Leap?

Why You Don’t — And Won’t — Fit In

I Like to Sleep in on Sunday!


About This Woman Writes

Carolyn Henderson is the marketing manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. She writes about life, art, and the art of life.
This entry was posted in Christian, church, Faith, Family, home, Life, Lifestyle, religion, spirituality, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to What Does “Real” Church Look Like?

  1. Elizabeth says:

    A lot of bldgs take quite a bit of money to run…someone has to pay those bills…and for programs…and staff….etc. So thus attendance, and regularly is needed. I thought the early church was moreso that the men took charge of teaching, taking turns, and who knows…maybe women taught women anyway, but it was shared. Thus everyone could keep working their regular jobs and thus no one was THE man or woman in charge necessarily…seems reasonable to me. But having been also in a house church for nearly a decade…I am glad at this point we are not…same problems but on lesser scale perhaps, or maybe worse due to small number of people…the guy who taught ours would not attend unless HE WAS TEACHING…most of the time was ok…but you know, sometimes in studying, one has things to share, maybe new or different insights…but those also were not welcome. It has dwindled down to where the 2 couples left now just get together every so often…but no organized teaching, nothing…kind of sad really…but I guess it was meant to be…

    • Insightful observations, Elizabeth — especially that regular attendance — along with attendant tithing — is a must to keep those building, programs, and staff going. It’s very much a paradigm for a modern, corporate society, but thankfully, we don’t have to bow down to the demands of corporations, most especially in our spiritual life.

      I think of “church” as fellowship and supporting one another — first, and this tends to be the one most overlooked. In supporting one another, if we have no one to play music, that’s okay; if there’s no one to teach, that’s okay, too. The apostle Paul suggests that all come prepared with something, but we don’t handle that because we’re so accustomed to a pastor-centric system.

      And groups of people are fluid, too –as you are seeing. Perhaps it is time to move on to something different, to a new way of thinking about it, with that emphasis, always, on supporting and upholding one another. If that consists of two couples, well, Jesus is still there — and if it is two couples, then you can support, and listen to, and pray for one another. God will lead you on the next turn of the path.

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  7. misti says:

    Your blog is great! I have always been suspicious about the way we “do” church- especially “protestants” bc lets face it all of our church ceremony was descended in one way or another from the Catholic Church. Then like an answer to prayer I ran across a document from sometime in the first 100 years of the ascencion that (readers digest version) described “church” (not called that in the doc) as meeting one (unspecified) day a week before dawn; singing one hymn to Jesus and then taking a “vow” not to steal, lie or be promiscuous and they would not refuse help to anyone who needed it no matter what. That is very different than anything I’ve ever experienced at church lol

    • Thank you, Misti, for your kind comments. You are right, indeed, that church in the first century didn’t look anything like what we undergo today! And yet, our information on it is sketchy enough that people can make all sorts of claims and justify them (this is a frequent, and unfortunate, use that some people make of the Bible).

      Perhaps one of the excerpts you read was from Pliny the Younger. I’m sure I’ll hash this completely, but Pliny was a civil servant sort of the early second century who was responsible for dealing with Christians. One of the things he wrote of them was, “They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to do some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food — but ordinary and innocent food.” You can see more on this at this link — https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/study/module/pliny/

      The Christians speaking to Pliny (actually, they were people who recanted in order not to be killed) perhaps got some of their teachings from that of the apostles. In Acts, a number of Gentile Christians were being pressured by Jewish believers to become circumcised and to follow Jewish dietary and other laws, a sad state of affairs because it negates the freedom that Christ came to give us. In Acts 15:20 the Christian leaders in Jerusalem assembled to decide the matter, and decided, “Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.”

      The apostle Paul, in 1 Corinithians 14:6, gave some directions that are decidedly NOT followed in contemporary, leadership-heavy, topdown church services: “What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” This egalitarian style of assembling, in which the least of the brothers and sisters has something to offer and is encouraged to do so, doesn’t fit well into the standard Read the Bulletin/Stand and Sing When You’re Told To/Listen to Announcements/Be Quiet for the Sermon/Don’t Forget to Attend Sunday School paradigm of most people’s Sundays.

      There is truly much freedom in Christ, but frequently, to find it, we strike out on what looks like a lonely path, because there aren’t a lot of people on it. But the good thing is twofold: 1) We are never alone, because Christ is walking side by side with us on that path and 2) an increasing number of believers are taking that path and talking about it. May that number continue to grow, and may those who are blinded by tradition, peer pressure, and the corporate church establishment, see.

  8. misti says:

    Oh and then they would go do their business and reassemble later to eat and hang out- my words

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