Are You Part Of The Audience
Charles Jefferson once described the difference between an audience and a church. He said, “An audience is a crowd. A church is a family. An audience is a gathering. A church is a fellowship. An audience is a collection. A church is an organism. An audience is a heap of stones. A church is a temple.” He went on to say, “Preachers are not to attract an audience, but to build His church.”
In the New Testament Jesus mentions the word “church” in Matthew 18:15-20: “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven. Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in Heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”
One preeminent fact stands out: He promised, “I will be with them” even when there only two or three there meeting together. (He isn’t impressed with numbers.) Some say, “One should attend the church of THEIR choice.” I believe we should attend the church of HIS choice! All “religious” groups meeting in buildings with the word “church” in it’s title are not necessarily part of His church.
The church He mentions is a family - “brothers/sisters.” These people are responsible to and for one another. A central function is prayer, “...if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will done for you by my Father in Heaven.” He takes note of and responds to what happens in church. Ordinary people who pray together become a force on the earth. God bears them witness and they bear witness to God.
An outspoken atheist earlier this century, Charles Bradlaugh, challenged a preacher, Hugh Price Hughes, to a debate. Hughes accepted on the condition that he could bring 100 witnesses to the redeeming love of God to the debate. The preacher asked the atheist challenger to bring witnesses to the benefit of atheism. The debate never took place. The church is made up of witnesses to redeeming love.
Søren Aaby Kierkegaard (1813-1855) was a Danish religious philosopher. I don’t agree with everything he believed or wrote, but he made some pretty pithy points from which I’ve benefitted greatly. In one of his writings, he said that one of the greatest problems in the church is that the congregation very often looks to the person in the pulpit as the star of the meeting. He is the performer. They are the audience. They listen, evaluate, critique, and criticize. The audience does everything except participate. Worship and work within the structure of His church was always intended to be participatory.
When each of us brings all we can to worship, praise, and ministry, our meetings are apt to be much fuller, richer and fulfilling for everybody who comes. I don’t believe God ever intended for His people to view those whom we believe are leaders from a distance and with a detached attitude.
I serve on the worship team in our congregation. I remember several years ago, that someone from our team suggested that we construct an elevated platform so the congregation could SEE us. I ventured my view that our purpose as worship leaders was not to be seen or put on display, but to unobtrusively bolster and strengthen the singing portion of our worship. I chose to sit on a front pew, facing the same directions as the congregation. Yes, I have a microphone. However, the purpose of my microphone is not so others can single out my voice and focus on how I’m worshipping. My voice is amplified, so it can be used to encourage others to sing with all their hearts.
I’ve noticed that when one is manning one of the oars in the boat, he/she is far less likely to criticize the other rowers. Critics in the church are usually those who have no active part and do not participate actively in the process of worship. They are spectators. They view from afar the efforts of others and offer their critique. “The pastor’s sermon was shallow, too long, too vague, too boring; the pianist/organist missed several notes; the ushers/greeters didn’t pay enough attention to me, etc.”
WHAT ARE THE LIFE LESSONS FOR ME?
The Church is not a building. The Church is people. People meet in buildings which they often refer to as “their church”. That building is not holy in and of itself. God’s people bring God with them to the building. When they leave the Church leaves, too. They leave a building!
There is no perfect local church!
If there were a perfect local church, I’d best not join it because I’d destroy it’s perfection!
If I truly belong to His Church, I will participate in every way I can as much as I can.
If I participate as one of the saints, I’ll be far less likely to sit back on my haunches and fire critical barbs at the other saints.
If I do have an honest question or suggestion, others are far more likely to give me a hearing IF I’m speaking as an integrated, active member of the whole.
As posted in The Inside Out Archives at Grant's Graceland, located at: http://www.gentle.org/graceland/inpast.html
© 1997- 1999 by Jerry Meyer