Every Sunday, millions of people file into buildings, sit in rows, and listen to someone talk about God. Some of the buildings resemble an ornate palace or shrine while others are barely held together with band-aids and bubblegum.
It's fairly safe to suggest that most of these gatherings are organized in a similar fashion. Turn on the lights, brief welcome, a few songs, a scripture reading, passing the plate, a speech, a prayer, back to the world, turn off the lights.
If you sit in a traditional style of service, you'll likely sing some familiar songs you've heard somewhere before - maybe only the first, second, and last verse of the song. If you sit in a contemporary style service, you'll likely stand until your feet hurt and sing the same phrase over and over... maybe a dozen or so times.
Some sundays, you'll hear a message from the pastor that moves and inspires, while others will lull you into a head bobbing hypnotic state - feeling like a sleep deprived prisoner. Some speakers are soft and tender, while others yell, scream, and fight for their words to lodge into your brain.
Just after the magical words, "in closing", or "lastly", or "bow with me in prayer" comes the closing prayer and sending forth of the church back into the world. Just beyond that last "amen" and a few conversations with friends, maybe we've spent an hour or two together, for others a short 45 minutes, and some spend 2 or 3 hours or more of their week together in that building.
Not long after the hustle and bustle has subsided...the lights are turned off, the doors are locked, and the grounds return to their normal unoccupied state until the next gathering.
Sadly, for more people than we can count, the definition of being Christian looks very similar to what I've described and what we know to be true. So, when you are identified as a Christian, what is the most common question asked of you?
"Where do you go to church?"
Why is that the question so many ask? Could it be that our only evidence of being a Christian is our Sunday or weekly presence at a gathering in a building with a Cross on the sign?
So what is your Christian identity? Is it tied only to where you attend church? Are you simply identified as a true servant of others? Or both? Naturally, you can't answer that question yourself... you are biased. What does the world think of your faith? How do they identify and define you?
Yes, we are instructed in Hebrews to not "forsake the gathering of ourselves" for the edification of the body of Christ. I believe we are to gather and worship God - it's part of our role as Christians. However, if our gathering is the only way the world can identify our faith - we're screwed.
Consider this, Rotary Clubs also meet weekly, do good deeds, form committees, and serve others. Perhaps the only major distinction is that Rotary doesn't have a group of robed people singing in 4 part harmony before the meal - or they don't have a few dudes in skinny jeans and guitars acting like pop stars before the speaker comes to the microphone.
So what is your Christian identity?
The world doesn't need millions of Christians hiding inside a building a few hours per week... the world is waiting on God to show up at its doorstep! And guess what... you, Christian, are the living representation of Jesus Christ in the world!
Yes, there are churches who do good work in the community, spare the debates about all those things your church is doing. The real question... how are you going to represent Christ to the world every second of every day?
Today - set yourself apart. Be the kind of Christian who is known by the way you serve and love others every day - everywhere... not by "where you go to church".
When the world recognizes your faith without asking "which church do you attend?"... then you're on the right path. Strive for that.
The "Christian Man" series is a plain language look at how a guy, who claims his faith in God, can live in such a way that the world recognizes his Christian identity by the way he lives life.
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