So I found a neologism as yet unknown to me: Chreastians. It’s a mash-up of Christmas, Easter, and Christian meant to refer to the folks who only come around on Christmas and Easter. It’s a bad word both aesthetically and in it’s derogatory intention. Apparently there’s also the word Chreasters (Christmas and Easter) – equally troublesome. To be honest, these days I’m glad when anybody shows up to worship no matter what day it is – so the good news for our Christmas and Easter friends is that we won’t be doing a Bible trivia test to see who gets a seat this Easter (although this is a hilarious scene from Rev., season 1).
The bad news is, I don’t know if it’s even possible to “be a Christian” and not go to church, or perhaps only go twice a year. Obviously this gets into all kinds of questions about what it means to be a Christian. Some say right beliefs. Some say right actions (baptism, communion, even morality or baptism by the Holy Spirit). My honest opinion is—barring some sort of prohibitive limitation or a special calling to something like solitude or hermitage or a place with no churches at all (and in these kind of calling there is usually a significant connect to and identification with a church, even if not attending)—it’s pretty much impossible to be a Christian without being a part of a church.
The reason I believe this is that being a Christian isn’t about having the right set of doctrinal beliefs, or behaviors. And it’s not just about me & Jesus. Beliefs are really important, as is a personal connection with God. (Although we need to remember that many struggle for years without any experience of a personal connection with God, which can be extremely painful… see Mother Teresa). But we have to keep in mind that to be a Christian names, at least in large part, our willingness to identify with the body of Christ… the church.
“…we have to keep in mind that to be a Christian names, at least in large part, our willingness to identify with the body of Christ… the church.”
It’s hip to talk about being spiritual but not religious, and many a book or seminar talk tries to explain how it’s possible to be a Christian without going to church. The problem is I’ve never seen it happen—at least not for a sustained period of time. The shelf-life is pretty short for lone-wolf Christians, and for alternative Christian communities that are disconnected from the traditions of the faith. The reason, I believe, is that corporate worship is an indispensable part of what it means to be a Christian.
I am as troubled as anyone that so many in our culture are leaving church. But leading churches isn’t about keeping up our market share. It’s only about faithfulness. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Christian defense of disconnecting from the church that wasn’t rooted in individualism or selfishness. We cannot cater to individualism and baptize it with new ideas about what it means to be a Christian, or new models for being the church. We have to just be the church in our place and our time, and let the chips fall where they may in terms of the numbers.
This is from an earlier post on this subject. I still believe it:
“…I don’t see any way to identify with Christ without identifying with the church, without living in fidelity to the church for our entire lives. Except in cases of abusive churches or church leadership, those who distance themselves from the church on the grounds that it doesn’t do anything for them are plagued by the pervasive egotism of our culture. The self-absorbed, “I don’t do the church thing every week, but I’m fine… really my soul’s good,” is becoming such a tired script.
The hard work of slogging to church every single Sunday morning so that we can worship with people who are different from us, is at least in part, necessary so that we don’t fall into the egocentric patterns of our society. We need to worship with people, preferably with those who are vulnerable and marginalized, because the hard work of learning how to worship together will teach us what it means to be human. Worship isn’t about my finding meaning in worship, it’s about learning how to glorify God alongside people who tend to drive me crazy, and vice versa. That’s worship. How I feel about it, or even worse, what I get out of worship is really beside the point. Those are questions we only ask if we have been more fully formed by a consumerist individualist culture than by the gospel. If we must talk about what I get out of worship, then we need to know that its impact is only measured in decades, not by what happened today, and in regard to an emotional response (or lack thereof), to the current song or teaching.