I was recently in a class discussion about the Church. We were beginning our section on Ecclesiology. Our professor, Dr. Steve Sommers, kicked us off with the big question; “what’s church?” I was busy wrapping my mind around the question but not to busy to hear some of the ideas that were being tossed around.
-“A place to be spiritually fed”
-“A place to worship God”
-“A place where we can be real”
-“A place where we can meet with God”
-“A place where we can fellowship with other Christians”
-“A place where we can talk about issues from a Christian perspective”
[these are just a few of the ideas people had]
Now what’s wrong with these responses it that none of them can possibly be correct simply because of the first two words; “a place…” When did we start to think of Church as a place? It occurred to me that evening that there is a great problem in the Church that we often overlook. The problem is the Church doesn’t even know who or what it is. We are not a place, in saying that the church is a place we are alienating ourselves from it. If it’s a place, well I’m not a place, so I must not be the church. I can go to a place, walk inside a place, get what I need or give what I should and be on my way.
You see the Church is a people. When we begin seeing the Church as a people we begin to see ourselves much more intimately involved. We are actually identified along side it. We are the Church. We don’t go to it or inside it. We can’t just passively get what we need from it and go about our business… the Church is our business… we become actively part of it as it becomes actively part of us.
The Church is a lot more like a dance than a place. The thing about dancing is that if you don’t move your feet you’re not really dancing. It’s not just your feet motion that really qualifies it as dancing either. Dancing isn’t random motion; it is guided and inspired by music. You don’t stop and start whenever you please. The better you follow the music and the more of yourself that goes into the music the better the dance. Now if you’ve ever been to a dance you know that there are some people who aren’t very good at it. Struggle as they may they still dance. Some people just move their feet but there are others that pour their heart into the dance it becomes passionate.
When we begin to see the Church as a dance we realize that we cannot simply go to it or get what we want from it. We either become part of it or we simply stay out of it. But there will always be music. There will always be something to dance to and it will always invite us to be a part of it. The dance has people in it from every part of the world. It has Catholics, Protestants, people who don’t even know what they are, and people who just want to dance. It has people from right now and people from long ago. It has the people you always knew were dancing and the people you never expected to tap their foot. It has brilliant dancers and clumsy ones but all share in one identity. They are all dancers.