Someone asked me last week why I wasn't "going to church." I gave my shorthand answer. I said, "I'm looking for a church that's at least as Jesusy as the New Testament."
All this is apropos of The Letter to the Hebrews. I've been reading it now for a coupla-three weeks (that's Maine-speak, people). That "letter" is generally believed to be the text of a sermon. The ESV Study Bible says this:
The genre of Hebrews is unusual. The book is without an introduction or other early indications that it is a letter. Yet the final verses do pass on greetings and blessings (13:23–25), and the author speaks of having “written to you” (13:22). However, the author also identifies his work as a “word of exhortation” (13:22). The careful rhetorical progression of the book, along with its frequent practical exhortations, has led many to consider it a single sermon. Perhaps Hebrews is best understood as a sermonic letter.But the point is, every sip of this rich brew is intensely Jesusy. Intensely Jesusy. Sip it yourself and see. The trick then is to find that same flavor in the church today. It just shouldn't be as rare as it seems to be. Know what I'm sayin'?
But back to not being in church and all that. It's not that I'm satisfied with my current lone-wolfism. Another person I talked to not long ago asked me what church I was attending these days, and when I told him I wasn't, answered rather imperiously, "May I direct your attention to Hebrews 10:25?" That's the part that says don't neglect meeting together and encouraging one another. Yup, I sure want that one another thing. But if church on Sunday morning is the best we can do, we're in trouble. On the other hand, I want to hang with fellow-believers and be knit together with them. I want a band of brothers, a tribe, a family. Well, what I really want is what Bonhoeffer described in Life Together. And I'm pretty unconvinced that collecting up a bunch of people from across the region to come together in an auditorium once a week to listen to some music and a speech (lesson, sermon, exhortation) by a guy we don't really know and then going our separate ways for the rest of the week is ever going to be the venue for life together. I've just about given up on that.
Michael Spencer in Mere Churchianity said there were many like me. Ian Michael Cron wonders if it's a new Christian diaspora. The conversation in the comments section of that post is very interesting too.
The danger for all of us, whether in the church or in "exile," is that we find ourselves one day having put our faith in many things, but not in Jesus. This is always the danger. Idols. Idols of the heart. Idols of the mind. And "proud towers" to house them in. And Jesus once again standing outside, knocking. Laodicea all over again (Rev 3:14-22).
[BTW, Glynn Young has collected some links to similar discussions here. Note also this post from at Public Christianity.]