A new Facebook group caught my attention recently. It’s called “I am religious but not spiritual” and its description reads: “The most important thing in life is to have an institutional relationship with God.”
I didn’t join the group, but something about the idea resonated in me. Obviously, it’s a reaction towards the more established, opposite movement; that faith should be all about individual expressions of spirituality, and not about institutions and structures and history.
As postmoderns we are supposed to distrust institutions. Does that make me modern if I find myself actually liking them? Brian McLaren says the divide between conservative and liberal is outdated; now it’s about modern and postmodern. It’s still a divide. What if there’s no divide and never was? (Intensive reading of Bruno Latour the last few weeks has almost persuaded me this might be the case.)
But back to church. A post and published article by Tvesok (in Danish) has some interesting observations about the target group and purpose of new churches. But a comment on this was: what about those people who like and need the security and structure that institutions can give?
It’s all about community, we’re told to believe. And I believe community is important. An institutionalized church without community would not be the same, sure. But is it the most important thing? What about corporate worship? What about the Word? What about the ‘sacraments’ (insert theology here)?
Upon, for instance, moving to a new city, finding a church can be a difficult task. Personally, I’d prefer one that suited me on both religion and community. A church whose activities and institutions inspired and challenged my Christian life – but also one in which I felt a sense of community with the other people. But if you can’t have both, the choice is not that easy.
What is church, anyway?