At the beginning of this year a fellow WordPress blogger named Samuel Kee wrote a post entitled “The Church Is Called To Be Churchy, So Deal With It.” He clearly and cleverly explained how ridiculous it is for anyone to complain about a church being “too churchy.” Sam began his post, “I’m sitting in a donut shop. I’ve been here many times and nobody has ever complained about this place, saying, ‘This donut shop is too donutty.’ It’s a donut shop; so you expect it to be donutty. No one ever said that a sporting event was too sporty, a library too booky, a concert too musicy, an airport too planey, a home too homey, a college too schooly, or a hospital too hospitally. Yet, I hear all the time, ‘That church was too churchy.'”
Sam has a point there. After all, with just about any other situation in life, we expect something to be exactly what it purports to be, and if it were anything less we would be concerned, possibly enough to even stop going there. Yet, like Sam, I have heard complaints about churches being too churchy, too. What does that even mean? Presumably it means that churches staying true to their calling tend to make people uncomfortable. “Why do we condemn the church for being about Jesus, your soul, God, spirituality, conviction of sin, heaven, hell, salvation, righteousness, and judgment?” Sam asks. Why indeed. That, after all, is exactly what the church is supposed to be.
God instituted the church to teach His Truth to His people. Church is supposed to be a place where believers gather to learn more about God, the Bible, and the application of biblical principles to everyday life. Church is supposed to be a place where unbelievers go to learn more about God and, hopefully, to meet Him personally. Church is supposed to be a place where those who are hurting can find healing, where those who are searching can find answers, where those who have sinned can find forgiveness and where those who are sinning can find conviction. None of that can truly happen if the church strays from its God-intended purpose. By that, I mean that none of that can happen if the church tries to be a social hub, a community playground, a philosophical society or a self-esteem seminar. All four of those things may become aspects of the church when the church is fulfilling its purpose, but if any of those things become the purpose then all hope is lost.
Frankly, no one should be able to attend church for very long without feeling uncomfortable. I am not talking about the seating, the lighting or the decor; I mean the “you’re stepping on my toes and getting a little too personal now” kind of uncomfortable. That is because the Bible is to be a mirror, and the church is to faithfully preach and teach the Bible. If I can look into a mirror everyday and think I look (physically) just fine, either the mirror is broken, my eyes need to be examined or I’m a little sick in the head. The same goes for the church, spiritually. I have blogged before about why the church should be “uncomfortable.”
“Since some churches actually believe that they should not be churchy, they try to hide their spiritual donuts, if you know what I mean,” Sam writes. “Participants can attend, be fairly comfortable and entertained, without being confronted with too many spiritual matters. Then, right at the end, a little ‘Jesus’ is slipped in.” There are no shortage of churches like that in America, and probably around the world. One of the side effects of living in a country with religious freedom is that we do not have to take our faith seriously in order to dabble in it. If attending church or naming the name of Christ was an offense that could result in persecution, imprisonment or even death, none of us would do it lightly or casually. I am not asking for persecution, because I surely do not want it. But persecution does serve as a purifying fire, separating those who are playing around from those who are serious.
“The church does nobody any favors when it refuses to be churchy. The church needs to be churchy and it must stop apologizing for doing so,” says Sam. “Amen,” says me. If you are attending a church that is not doing what it is supposed to do (see above if you forgot what that is) then you need to have a serious talk with your church leadership and find out why not. If the church leadership is intentionally not doing church the way it needs to be done, and has no intention of changing that, you need to leave and go to a real church. Expect your church to be churchy. Demand it, in fact.
If “churchy” means doing what God called the church to be and do, and not doing whatever seems most likely to attract people and make them feel comfortable, “churchy” is exactly what the church is supposed to be.