Tuesday, April 6, 2010

#138-"Missing" People (a.k.a. Making Them Feel Guilty for Not Coming to Church)

If there's one loaded Apostolic phrase other than "We're praying for you," it's "We missed you." Let's break this gem down:

The Implications
No Apostolic worth his salt would respond to the simple, friendly statement "We sure missed you at church last Sunday!" with a simple, friendly, "Why, thank you!" and expect to leave things at that. "We missed you" is so classic because of everything it implies. Not only were you not in church, but the reason for your absence is unknown and therefore suspect. It is a statement, but in reality, it is a series of questions:

1. Why weren't you in church?
2.Why didn't you give advance notice?
3. Is your excuse sufficient enough to reassure me that you aren't on the road to perdition?

If these questions can't be answered satisfactorily, one begins to question if you are truly a real Apostolic, or if you're one of those spineless fence-sitters.

The Origins
Why do we miss each other so often? Because church attendance is up there with tithing; it proves your faithfulness. After all, if you forsake the assembling of yourselves together for no good reason, isn't it just as bad a smoking a cigarette or something?

In our culture, we are expected to attend church at all costs, because there exists the idea that nothing is more important than church. Because somehow it follows that if something is more important to you than church then something is more important to you than God and if something is more important to you than God, then . . . just give it up and dive headfirst into the handbasket.

Church = A service?
Number one, "church" is more than a service and it's a crime to reduce it to that, and number two, um, there are things more important than attending a service.

Before I get tomatoes splattered all over me, this post is not an anti-establishment cry to abandon traditional church service as we know it. I think, overall, it's a very good idea to go to church simply because it's a way to stay connected to the Body. It prevents you from becoming cut off and isolated. Christianity was meant to be lived out in community, and attending church service is one way to do that. But it's only ONE way, not the end all, and definitely not a spirituality gauge. And I do wish the term "spirituality gauge" were completely foreign to me, because why in the world do we want to gauge each other's spirituality in the first place?! But alas . . .

I personally feel that focusing so much on a service and elevating it to "our time to meet with God" allows Christians to compartmentalize their relationships with God. One begins to think of church as the time to do God Stuff and life outside of church where you do Regular Stuff. And I think that's problematic.

Back to Being "Missed"
Anyway, to be honest, I appreciate people's concern when/if I miss church for whatever reason. It's just that "We missed you" is rich with subtext and was begging to be deconstructed for such a site as Stuff Apostolics Like.


  1. Good stuff, Chantell. I think we're all about compartmentalizing it to "service time." Yet I had to work every other Sunday for nearly 15 years while on the Fire Department and I learned to have a service at home called: prayer. Jesus met me every time, and I was blessed and thus sustained my walk with Him.

    My Northern bud asks this about the "House o' God," meaning church building services are held in: if a group of APs meet on Sunday at a gay bar (closed for bar activities, used for church purposes only on Sunday morning), then does the gay bar become the "house o' God?" Be it funeral home, store front, gym, etc. Or should we more correctly use the term "house of worship" instead?

    Third, since we're on it, please bring up "your work: it matters to God." There is a book of that same title that Cara Davis reviewed a few years back, but the subject matter is more relevant now than ever. Thanks!

  2. All I can do is roll my eyes in annoyance at the legitimacy of this post. I've heard this phrase more times than I want to count as an "ex apo"...

    lol ...

    There is nothing more patronizing than an; "Ohhh we missed you last week in church! Is everything ok?" *meaningful rub of the shoulder* All they want to find out is if your life of "sin and frivolity" (aka Your life at that "other church") has finally come crashing down on you just like they had predicted in their gossiping session amongst friends the week prior.

    A friend that truly "misses" someone in church is one who will not talk amongst themselves about said person but will earnestly pray for them in private. (reference post about using Testimony/Prayer Requests as a full on gossip session)


  3. Great post, a couple things I think we as Apos do that are hilarious. First, calling our gatherings 'church' - if you check out the New Testament, the church is the body, it's the group of believers. In other words, it's us. The church is never known of as a place or something you can attend. We are the church, it's not a building. So our whole paradigm of "going to church" is a non biblical one.

    Second, the idea of a "house of God' that Stuart referenced cracks me up. That's not a Christian concept either. When Jesus tore the veil he got rid of that sacred space to meet God in and opened it up to everyone. Jesus is too big to be contained by a building and now lives in us, the church, his people, body of believers etc. There's nothing inherently sacred about the space we use to gather and worship.

    But we love to use the House of God reference to stop children from running within the four walls, forbidding gum, coffee and a myriad of other things. :) Probably a carryover from Catholicism and strict our strict Protestant roots.


  4. Ryan, you're ruining the fun...this was my next post!

  5. haha - sorry - delete the comment if you want. it can wait.


  6. Great post.

  7. i am assuming that's some good photoshopping skillz on your part Chantell? Or....

    this is the most perfectly coordinated google image with a post that we have witnessed on SAL

  8. HAHAHAHAH OMG This is rich!! Spot on.

  9. Ryan, would it surprise you that "church," though primarily designated for individuals and even a corporate community, was truly used to describe the place/location/gathering?

  10. Lee - it would. Where's your source material for that? I know that it is currently used to describe a building, but I've not found any scriptural precedent for it.

    As a matter of fact, the word in the text is 'ekklesia' and was translated as 'church in our Bible. I'm not a Greek scholar, but according to several books I've read, it's a gathering of a group of people or an assembly. I did a quick google search just to check it out and google seems to agree with what I've read.

    According to bible-truth.org:

    In our English Bible the Greek word, "ekklesia" is translated in most places "church." The word "ekklesia" is found in one hundred and fifteen places in the New Testament. It is translated in English one hundred and thirteen times "church" and the remaining times it is translated "assembly."

    In classical Greek the word "ekklesia" meant "an assembly of citizens summoned by the crier, the legislative assembly."(2) The word as used in the New Testament is taken from the root of this word, which simply means to "call out." In New Testament times the word was exclusively used to represent a group of people assembled together for a particular cause or purpose.

    You can also check out http://www.searchgodsword.org/lex/grk/view.cgi?number=1577

    Also, according to QuickVerse (bible program) it says the same thing.

    So, if you've got an alternate source that shows a biblical reference to the term church meaning or describing a building, I'd love to check it out.


  11. Lee if you could show me some sort of proof that this was the purpose of the church then I'll agree with you but right now I'm completely behind Ryan. Ryan that's been my belief for several years (ever since I started to really study the bible).

    Thanks for the post Chantell...Always makes me chuckle. Having a family member who recently left my congregation I always get this "Hey man how are they? Is everything okay with them?" If people really cared then they would take time out of their day to contact them as soon as possible and not wait until the next service or until they see me. They would contact my family member and ask her. They are just more concerned about the fact that they aren't in the building with them on Sundays.

  12. Lovin the post Chantell. One of my family members recently decided to leave my church congregation. Ever since then I am constantly badgered with questions like "How are they? Is everything okay? I hope they're doing well. I'd really like to see them again." This really infuriates me. If people really cared about them then they would give them a call and talk to them outside the building. Your only source of communication with them should not be because of the building we come to worship together in. So stupid.

    Ryan I am completely behind your point. Ever since I started to truly study the bible this is the conclusion I have come across. Lee if you can come up with some references to your point I might consider it but I don't really believe your argument. Peace and love all....

  13. Glad folks like the post. For the record, I have zero photoshopping skills. I just googled "We missed you at church" and up popped the pearl you see posted above. Carry on!

  14. Ryan and Chuckles, I certainly wasn't insisting against an alternative meaning to the word church that you've ascribed. Sorry for the misunderstanding. I'm actually agreeing with you, but also, for sake of discussion, challenging you that "church" was used to designate a the assembling of believers in scripture - though also, church was the name of the corporate body of "called out" believers.

    "To the churches in _______" A very common greeting. The word here is not used for individuals, but for corporate bodies of believers who gathered together.

    Matthew 16:18 Church is used a metaphor for a building

    Matthew 18:17 Church refers to a corporate body

    Acts 8:1
    Acts 9:31
    Acts 11:19
    Acts 11:26 (Barnabas and Saul met with the church)
    Acts 12:1 (some who belonged to the church)
    Acts 13:1 Prophets and teachers in the Antioch church
    Acts 14:23, 27 Appointed in the church.
    Romans 16:4 Risked their lives for all the Gentile churches
    1 Corinthians 16:1 Instructions to the Galatian churches
    16:9 Churches in Asia
    Gal 1:13 (wrong pronoun used here?)

    The word in Greek (ekklesia) simply refers to the assembly of the citizens of a city. The OT equivalent to the word is qahal, and is not so much a specification of the members of an assembly as a designation for the act of assembling.

    The reality is that the church is a divinely established institution, which exists to carry out its Lord's will by the power of the Spirit. The church is the continuation of the Lord's presence and ministry in the world, it to be a fellowship of regenerate believers who display spiritual qualities of their Lord. While the church is a divine creation by God (just as he divinely called out Israel in the OT), it is made up of imperfect human beings, and will not reach perfect sanctification until it's Lord's return.

    Other metaphors for church: Body of Christ, People of God.

    So, yes, I support your conclusions that the word "church" never refers to a building, but the language does support that "church" can sometimes refer to the actual assembling together. So it has two senses: On the one, it means all believers in Christ at all places and all times (Mt 16:18 for example). On the other, a group of believers in a given geographical locality (1 Cor 1:2, 1 Thess 1:1).

  15. Our esoteric language and constructs have developed by tradition, and not by any secret or deviant plot by orthodoxy. It's simply how all language develops. We assign meanings to words over time, and the context of our language is a major prop for this.

    Therefore, in time, buildings were made in areas where Christians prospered. Like Synagogues, they began also building meeting places. Perhaps the name of the community was inscribed on the building "The Church of Antioch." From there, the word "church" is loosely used to refer also to a building. It's not hijacking the meaning of "ecclesia" nor to be used to read back into the Text with that meaning.

    I understand why some today are concerned with the use of "church" to designate a building. Over the centuries, we have become "building-centered" instead of our individual homes and communities becoming worship-centered, we've become house-of-worship centered. Going back to a more organic name-change will be just one tool of many (teaching the most prominent) to remind us of our mission, who we are, and to disciple us in what is our essential mission.

  16. Lee - I think we actually agree. To me, church means the body of believers, the community, the assembling of believers etc. The reason that is an important distinction to me is that if we are empowered as the church, then we're more missional with our lifestyle - it's something we live day to day and we don't have to wait to 'bring people to church.' Because bringing someone to church doesn't really make sense; we could bring the church to someone, or bring someone to meet the church.

    And I would argue your meaning of Matt 16:18 as a metaphor for a building. I'd say Jesus is talking about building that assembly of believers that you and I agree about.

    And no need to apologize about the misunderstanding - I think having conversations about this stuff is incredible and we'd all be better off if more people were involved in the discussion.


  17. Thanks lee. completely agree with you. I view the church as the body of christ and as such I believe that includes the assembling thereof. I just don't like it when people say that because you don't go to particular buildings for service that you aren't in church. I believe the body is the church and I wish people would actually take this literally. How can I not be in church if I believe in Christ and live my life according to the scriptures? That's just what upsets me. Much appreciation to ya...

  18. Chuckles, the element of "assembling together" or "gathering together" is seminole to what Christianity is. It's the entirety of NT worship and community. Christianity is not a cry of self, it's a denial of self, and a serving of one another. This is why it is not a question of one's salvation if they are or aren't in community with other Christians, but it is not living in the full reality of what Christ following is about. Therefore, it could also be a symptom of a heart-level issue. The usual responses are people being hurt by other Christians, wanting to hide their sins from others, fear of rejection, etc. God's hands are large enough for all of that, and a healthy Body of believers are certainly agents of God's hands on earth.

  19. Living "according to the scriptures" is not NT Christianity, as much as is living in community with others, with the "scriptures" (read: law) inscribed on your heart. Though there are certainly requirements of God, the primary laws are love of God, and love of others. What better way to demonstrate the latter than to be in community with others?

    The NT contains patterns and instructions for corporate gatherings, all quite significant to having an organic and genuine Christianity.

  20. Haha, the picture is actually on some postcards we've given out to Sunday School kids that miss a couple Sundays. Too funny :)