Saturday, August 20, 2011

Not the What but the Who

(A word of clarification, when I write "The Who" I'm not referring to these guys.)

Because of our two week trip to New York State and our visit to Chevis Oaks last Sunday, we haven't met with our church family in over a month. I know that Sunday gatherings are not the only time we should see the church, but the reality is that in the busyness of life, Sunday is when we get to see most of the people for the longest period of time.

A month is a long time to go without getting together. We miss our friends a great deal and are anticipating the wonderful fellowship we will have together tomorrow. I don't know exactly what will happen, but I have a good idea of who I will see.

As I think about tomorrow, I realize that it is not the what, but the who that is important. It is the people that matter much more than what actually happens. Frankly, (within biblical standards) I don't really care what happens. I'm sure there will be much talking, singing, encouragement, discussion of scripture, praying, etc. Those things will certainly be good. Oh, and there will as always be eating (how could I forget that?).

Although those aspects of the gathering are great, they are not what I look forward to the most. It's the people that matter. They are what I am thinking about.

I'm not trying to create some sort of false dichotomy here. What we do involves the people, and the people are the ones we do the things with. My point is simply that the specific activities are of little importance compared to the people.

We should all ask ourselves an important question: Is there any activity that we believe must occur when we gather as the church? If there is something, then we are probably placing a bit too much emphasis on the what instead of the who. What is most important is the church.

All of this must certainly happen within the context of glorifying the triune God through edification that leads to increased holiness, care for others, and sharing of the gospel. However, no one specific thing must happen in order for edification to take place.

As we ponder church gatherings, whenever they happen, let's simply remember that what matters is the people. The activities, while important, must remain secondary.


Tim A said...

"...let's simply remember that what matters is the people. The activities, while important, must remain secondary."

I understand your not wanting to create a dichotomy but in a way one is forming when you suggest that one is the top and the other, the dynamic that accomplishes the value, is of lesser importance. It is impossible to demonstrate that people matter most by substituting in men's ideas for God's design for relationship and gathering. If we gather 7 days a week instead of one because we claim people matter to us, yet we ignore God's design for those connections, we are no better off then once a year gathering. Thus "people matter most" becomes only lip service. People can only matter most when we obey God's instructions.

Our level of value of people will stay the same if our commitments to men's traditions stays the same, no matter what we urge or claim.

Maybe what you are saying is that even though a certain group of peoples habit patterns of gathering leads them to shallower relationships (even though they think they are strong), believers who are committed to habit different patterns that bring greater strength in relationship should not value the others any less.

Did I get that right or am I off?

Arthur Sido said...

I think this is an important point. We see church as a to-do list, even in the simple church. Did we a)pray, b) break bread, c) have teaching and d) fellowship? If we did, score one for us! You are right though, the gathering of the church is about God's people serving God, not about doing certain activities.

Eric said...

Tim ans Arthur,

Thanks for your comments. What I'm getting at in this post is the tendency to focus so much on what we think has to happen that we don't focus on the needs of the people we're talking to. This likely is more of a problem in the institutional setting than the simple one. However, it can happen there as well. A few times I've caught myself thinking about what I think we need to do instead of trying to simply serve the others in the fellowship. Now of course as we gather we don't want to suggest that "anything goes" and that what occurs doesn't matter. I'm referring to priorities, with the people coming before the activities.

Tim A said...

When we look at God's design for prepared participation by all for the purpose of edification - the people and God will be the top priority. How can you fake this? How can you do this without thinking how valuable God's people are - specially when the saints are preparing 24/7? When I'm out working, I'm thinking about God and his people, what they need and I need. As I mature in my faith, I torque it up more.