The Weekly Worship Gathering, Church, and Donald Miller

On Monday, Donald Miller wrote an article that created a lot of buzz: I Don’t Worship God by Singing. I Connect With Him Elsewhere.

The internet started writing. One good reply was Donald Miller and the Culture of Contemporary Worship.

All of the replies spurred Donald Miller to enter the fray again. Why I Don’t Go to Church Very Often, a Follow Up Blog.

In the follow up, he wrote: "And yet, most of the influential Christian leaders I know (who are not pastors) do not attend church."

That sentence greatly disturbed me.

When our life together as local churches are being greatly influenced by those who have abandoned the weekly worship gathering, it is no wonder that churches struggle.

When we "graduate" from the instructional side of church, we should turn around and become mentors to others. The cycle continues, and I find it wrong to say that we grow out of the cycle.

Tony Campolo famously said, "The church is a whore, but she's my mother." I can relate. Not because of my earthly mother. She's a wonderfully faithful woman. I can relate because I have also been disillusioned with the institutional church at times. Extremely disillusioned.

I can sympathize with the same wrestling match that Donald is expressing, yet I was convicted through my journey to actually make a difference by being part of the institutional church.  God convicts us of what is wrong not to flee but to bring about the change that is needed.

My disillusionment with the institutional church led me to plant a collection of house churches. I wanted to save God's money from staff and buildings to have a greater kingdom impact on the world. I wanted to foster a more intimate, real community of believers. These house churches, despite having more resources and a better fellowship, really struggle to come alongside the lost and bring them into right relationships with Jesus. The "institutional" church still does a fairly good job at this. I don't understand how. It still baffles my mind.

I don't know how to gracefully say it, but I do say this filled with kindness and love: I think we all may be thinking that weekend gatherings are for us. But then our wishes and desires aren't catered to in the worship gathering. Maybe it doesn't jive with our learning style. Maybe the music isn't in a format that we would listen to on the radio. Maybe the speaker isn't connecting with us. So we, in a different way, begin to think that the weekend worship gatherings aren't for us because they weren't designed for us.

Donald Miller exemplifies this thinking, but I also see it in the lives of those in the community I live in. Many Christians have abandoned the weekend gatherings of believers despite those gatherings being the best method of reaching the lost. And if the mature Christians all flee because they have grown beyond it, what happens? This becomes an even bigger issue in our transient culture. The mature Christians will move on, leaving those they began discipling without a community to be plugged in to.

We have a serious dearth of mature Christians to mentor the new ones in our weekly worship gatherings. Christians who will invite people over after the gathering and open up their homes and share a meal. Christians who help when help is needed. Christians who will step up and be the bridge that the gospel travels on. And this may be because the Donald Millers of this world are leaving the weekly worship gatherings. Christians who reach that point then want to abandon the gathering that helped them get there.

The weekly gathering of the church is something worth fighting for. It works. And it also has a historical tradition that can be traced all the way back to the early church. It may have some difficulties in our hyper-individualized American culture of the moment, but it is still the vessel I am seeing lives changed through. And, despite all its flaws, that is a beautiful thing.