Doing Church and Being Church
"Doing church" means going on Sundays, being involved in all the programs and events, and getting a level of enrichment from the church and all of these things. Church, on this level alone, is a means to an end, a means that we know is good and right, and that we even get excited over sometimes. It is not always that hard to find a church you really love, but you may love it because it gives you a nice place to "do church" rather than "be church". "Doing church" really goes no further than the nice things about the church on a very surface level. It may have to do with music, with preaching, with doctrine -and all of these things really are important (in varying degrees, of course), which is why I am not pitting "doing church" against "being church" in every regard. It is obviously very important that a church is Christ-ward in worship and that the Word is held high and believed upon. The point is that one can "do church" and that's it. In this case, where it is "doing church" alone, it is in some respects no more than a preferred amuzement park ride or a good restaraunt that has really good food. They are a good find, enjoyable, and we get a lot out of it, but it doesn't go much further than that. "Doing church" alone does not truly reflect Christ's design for the local body.
"Being church" includes "doing church", but it goes beyond. It is what makes church a church and not a country club. "Being church" involves laying down your personal agendas and serving the body. This is a really difficult one, more difficult than you think, because many of us would like to think that our personal agenda falls within the agenda of the church. There may be some truth here. Maybe our agenda is partly in line with the church, but let us consider our motives. Are we following this focus for the sake of the church, or for the sake of the church *for us*. See the difference? Almost everyone who has an agenda of their own believes it is for the good of the church, but do they consider a) what Christ says is good for the church, and b) if the good they hope comes from it is really for the church or ultimately for their own enjoyment of the church?
"Being church" makes no room for little monarchs to establish a corner of the kingdom for themselves and their small band of cronies. It means constantly dieing to self. If you aren't dieing to self somehow, struggling with something inside in relating to others within the body, then I wonder if you are just doing church, playing church, rather than being in the body. The distinction is not always clear to us. It is easy to mistake physical presence for spiritual presence and commitment. It is easy to mistake commitment to ourselves and to an ideal for commitment to the very diverse, sinning saints in our local body of Christ. And of course, to be committed to them is directly proportional to our commitment of Christ and His vision of the body.
Whether we like it or not, Christ bought the Church with His own blood (Acts 20:28, Eph 5). He bought us each individually, but we form a collective whole, the Body of Christ. Granted, in every physical fellowship there are goats among the sheep, and it is often not apparent who is who. This is obviously because everyone, every born-again believer, has their own set of struggles, their own "growth rate", their own sins that blind them, their own lack of maturity in certain areas. As a friend of mine says often, "we are all works in progress!" So, implicit in our "being church" is struggle. It is going to involve bumping heads, and it is going to do much with us, and in us, to command love, patience, grace, humility. I like how "patience" is translated "long-suffering" in places like the KJV. It paints a vivid picture. We suffer long with others, with their faults. Loving can be difficult. We love the Lord over the Church, but it seems easiest to leave it at that. We know this will not do, though, because the same Lord we love has brought us into His fold to love the others as well, to even love our enemies.
Being church means placing yourself in submission to Christ, in submission to the leaders of the church, and then in servitude to others. Church is not just a place to get stuff, to hear the Word -though that is a huge part of it. We could do that much by listening to the radio, these days. Church is about service and worship to Christ which reflects itself in service to others, submission to the leaders over the body, and gaining an attitude that is no longer self-focused within the fellowship but body-focused. We have no excuse anymore to just blow people off when we don't like them or they say things that trouble us. Not only are they our brothers and sisters, but now they are in our face regularly, in fellowship with us, representing and approximating Christ's invisible Church. We serve the body in the name of Christ, we submit to the elders -even when we disagree. Someone once said to me, "You know, submission isn't really submission if you 'submit' because you always agree with the person you are supposed to be submitting to." How often it is that we selectively submit to authority. How often it is that things are going great, and we are happy until that moment when the leadership crosses us. At that moment, we may even find every way imaginable to justify disobeying them. We will criticize them as being un-Biblical, as being unfit leaders -all kinds of things.
To sum up, "being church" means being part of the visible body that is before us. It means we come not as parasites to fatten ourselves and then leave. It means coming to minister to others, no matter who they are, for the sake of the body, not for the sake of ourselves or our own self-importance. It means having an attitude of submission, long-suffering, and humility and laying down our agenda for Christ's agenda for His Church. It is harder than "doing church", for sure, but it is the way the Lord has paved for us, and it is essential to our growth as Christ's sheep and the function of the local body for the glory of Christ.