I’ve come, only recently, to recognize a sad dynamic in the church. It is one that I truly believe keeps us from the kind of vibrant, engaged, interconnected community to which we are called as members of the Body of Christ. That dynamic? “I’ll see you Sunday!”
When we say that, or even think it with regard to our brothers and sisters in our own church, we are putting off relationships, we are suspending community. Yes, to be sure, there is often an element of anticipation, even of excitement, in the phrase because we do like to be together. However, in practical terms it becomes a way of saying “our relationship is on hold until Sunday.” And mostly we keep that rubric by having little, if any, contact with most of our fellow congregation members Monday through Saturday, even if we didn’t see them on Sunday.
It took me a long time to recognize this because I’ve spent the vast majority of my time for many years at a church or ministry site interacting with people daily both in and around the church, and in the context of ministry contacts with students, in each case serving them and caring for them. It wasn’t until my life circumstances changed and I wasn’t there daily being intentionally relational, modeling and teaching all the time that I found out it isn’t getting through to the rest of the community. Most other people aren’t doing this. I’m not only talking about my present church, but all the churches and ministries of which I’ve been a part vocationally. This has been a big realization for me, and it’s been a long time surfacing.
The people of the congregations and ministries of which I’ve been a part are good, faithful people. They aren’t awful, they don’t want to hurt someone or be hurt. Somehow, though, the idea of community being all of our calling – not just a way the pastors “do” their job – isn’t getting through. The concept that if we don’t see someone on Sunday that it is our responsibility to see if there is a need, not only that proverbial someone ™ – in our minds that usually means the clergy – needs to become the practice.
Of course, we all know different people better than others. Some churches are so small that everyone knows everyone, others so large that there are people who regularly attend the same service for years who may never meet. But, if we each took responsibility for one another, if we each looked out for one another, if we didn’t just wave and say “see you Sunday!”… what could the community of Christ followers look like? Needs would be known. Hunger and poverty would be decreased. Listening would happen. Caring opportunities wouldn’t be missed. Loneliness would be gone. Mourning and rejoicing would never happen in isolation.
If we served each other out of reverence for Christ – of whose body we are an integral part – I believe the church would be irresistible, better still Jesus would be irresistible. The church would overflow because the presence of Christ would be tangible, the principles Jesus taught about caring for the ill, the widowed, the orphans, the lowly, the lonely, the marginalized, would be 100% of life…. not a tiny fraction of each week behind pretty walls.
Relationships with people aren’t the only aspect of Sunday we take for granted, I’m afraid, but how different would it be for these other facets if we were in deep Christ-relationships with each other? In that environment, would we be able to save our Scripture engagement, our spiritual learning, our prayer and worship for Sunday either? All of these are elements of our unity, our likemindedness as Phillipians 2 puts it, and any one of us neglecting any aspect of it for 6 11/12ths days of the week prevents it from being anything real. What would real look like?
If we didn’t wait for Sunday, the church might just look like this:
Acts2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. [ESV]
Right now, though, for a lot of us, there are 6 and 11/12ths days in the way.