What do you think churches should do?

While some of your favorite sites are down — a very severe storm blew through metro Washington, D.C. last night, disabling an Amazon cloud computing center in the ‘burbs — let me ask a question that has been bothering me since the UUA General Assembly: just what do you think the purpose of a church is? Not the UUA, but the particular church. Opinions requested.

8 Replies to “What do you think churches should do?”

  1. 1) Administer Sacraments (We UUs do have them).

    2) Provide a community for a free and disciplined search for truth. Religion practiced alone, or without discipline leads to things line Jonestown, David Koresh, etc. Our discipline comes with our covenants. The are other ways too. The Universalist’s creeds. But a Church provides a disciplined way to seek truth; to practice faith.

    3) Transmit our faith, practices, community, throughout time, from generation to generation.

    The transform the world stuff I leave out. The worlds transforming itself all the time. We can direct a little, but mostly it’s providing a home for members to hold on for the ride.

  2. I look forward to seeing the response to this question.

    @Bill–I think you might be thinking differently about “transforming the world” than I am. I think that transforming worldview and transforming the world are/or could be tied. Or maybe I’m reading Universalist history wrong (which I very well could be).

  3. Relook at my blog Kim and you’ll find most of posts are about changing things. Transformation and the world if you like. It’s what I do, and I do it because imperatives I draw from Religion.

    But I don’t think it’s what a Church should do first and foremost. Justice involves equities. There are two sides to almost every Social Justice issue. When we insert ourselves explaining who’s on the side of love and you isn’t we’ve almost always horribly simplified a complex issue. (The supreme court decision on Obamacare another: so which side of love was Jutice Roberts as he pushed a camel through an eye of a needle, upholding the law while striking down the commerce clause tactic and upholding state’s rights on Medicaid?)

    Besides that, we’re political Klutzes. Giving Sheriff Joe a forum and pulpit one of the dumbest moves I’ve seen. If a minister has any power, it’s gravitas. Don’t share it with a grandstanding local Pol. Geez!

  4. Sorry for the SJ tangent in response to Kim. I very much look forward to the responses here too. The question should have dominated GA.

  5. This is a VERY interesting question. It forces us back to basics.

    When I work with a congregation, I view the basic functions of what a church should do as…

    #1> Worship / Devotion (even in a Humanistic setting this would involve devotion to some Human ideal)

    #2> Learning / Study

    #3> Fellowship / Socialization

    #4> Service

    #5> Stewardship of its own resources (human, financial, etc.).

    A full-service congregation probably would need to be engaged in all 5 basic activities. However, a fellowship-style congregation (or Jewish havurah, or Christian house church) might specialize in even fewer than these 5. For example, I know of a Quaker congregation of 15 that owns no property, and meets in the library of a large church. They pay the church a free will offering. Almost 90% of their congregational work is devoted to worship and study. I’ve heard of simmilar havurot (is that the correct plural?) that specialize in Jewish study+service or worship+social.

  6. What a great question. My answer looks a lot like Derek’s. Churches should worship, serve the needs of others, reach out to others (mission), provide fellowship and opportunities for discipleship (i.e. becoming committed, finding depth in one’s faith, study).

    I think of these as ways of responding to what the Spirit is doing (or “should” be doing): gathering us, upholding us, and sending us.

  7. From a slightly different viewpoint, as a member of a congregation, what I feel like I need most from church is the strength to go back out on Monday and keep on trying. It’s worship that refills the reservoir.

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