Sometimes you may hear Christians referring to what’s termed “the School of Christ” (the school of Christ is quite real, but it’s an experience not a classroom). Others may talk a lot about “Sunday School”. And of course there are those who go to “school” to get a divinity degree of some sort, a seminary degree, bible college certificate, etc.
While all this is well and good at certain times and in certain situations, Church is most certainly not a school. It’s not about classrooms and curriculums and never-ending study. It’s not about becoming smarter than the next guy or gal on the membership roll. It’s not a mental exercise or a head trip.
For some people though, it’s as if Church is all about learning, learning and more learning. They go to services to learn. They go to Sunday Schools to learn. They go to bible studies to learn. They go to women’s groups to learn. They go to men’s groups to learn. They go to conferences to learn. They go to retreats to learn. They go to classes to learn. They go to meetings to learn. They go to small groups to learn. They read books to learn. They tune in to talk radio to learn. They listen to sermons and teachings by numerous teachers to learn. They go to seminaries to learn. They buy bible study software to learn. They download apps to their Smartphone to learn. They surf the web to learn. They read magazines to learn. They read newsletters to learn. They are always learning; always seeking more and more knowledge.
All this learning activity rolled up together is what some people refer to as Church. The formula goes something like this: Find a building to meet in with a steeple on top and a sign out front, and then cram in all the learning you possibly can from wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling, and do it every time the doors are open.
One of the many problems with this is that you might wind up getting a big Pharisaical head, might start looking down on others who you don’t think know as much as you, might begin to feel like you’re really doing something great for God because all the scurrying around trying to constantly learn more and more takes alot of effort and commitment. You begin to feel like you are a role-model Church member in good-standing with impeccable “churchmanship” who is dedicated and sincere and really committed to doing the will of the Father. (It’s easy for hearing or talking about the will of the Father to be mistaken for doing the will of the Father.). Or, maybe you realize that at some point you really should get out and put some of this learned knowledge to use by doing something to minister to others but, alas, you don’t think you’re ready yet because you still have so much to learn.
Many people insist on spending all of their Christian fellowship and ministry time either teaching or being taught the same things over and over again—and they call it “Church”. If they’re really sold on this idea of Church, they especially like straining at gnats over the nuisances of every little syllable of every little Hebrew and Greek word. They often will debate you tooth and nail over some finer point of doctrine too like the exact level of free will we have or the meaning of the new moon festival, etc.
Ever meet anyone like that? Somehow they manage to take the most basic of truths and make it so convoluted and confusing that you just walk away bewildered. Here’s a question: How hard is it to understand that we are to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength; and love our neighbor as ourselves? That’s the whole ball of wax right there.
If we think of Church as a school in the traditional, scholastic sense, if we think of it as a series of ongoing opportunities to listen to another sermon and attend another class, then we have totally missed what Church is. That begs the question, “So what is Church?” The answer will come after we explore everything else it is not….