How Does the Church Differ From America?

This post first appeared on Brian Zahnd’s excellent blog, and is republished with permission.

What is the church?

Is the church a religious building with stained-glass and a steeple?

Is the church a religious gathering that meets on Sunday mornings?

Is the church a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit religious organization?

I don’t want to give a quick and jaded “of course not.” There are reasons why stained-glass and steeples, Sunday gatherings and not-for-profit status have become associated with the church.

In the end this is not what the church is.

Maybe the church is something like this: The other way of being human (together). The way given to us by and built around Jesus Christ.

The church is a distinct way of being human.

As the most social of beings we are constantly trying to figure out how to be human together. This is the human project. (War, hunger, and poverty are our most conspicuous failures.)

There are many ways to be human. For example…

The Greco-Roman way. (This has faded away, or more accurately, morphed into other ways.)

The Jewish way. (This is still with us, but it too has morphed over time.)

The Hindu way. The Buddhist way. The Muslim way, etc. (The great religions are more than a set of beliefs, they are ways of life.)

The secular way. (This is the way that has the most momentum in the modern Western world.)

The American way. (This is a secular way disguised as a kind of religious way.)

The particular challenge for the American Christian is to distinguish the American way of being human from the church (the Jesus way of being human). If there is no essential difference between being Christian and being American (as a way of life), then what is the point of the church?

This is a problem.



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