Depends on What We Mean by “Churchy”

Last week a few people shared a blog posted titled “The Church Is Called to Be Churchy, So Deal With It.” by Samuel Kee. I’ve never read anything by him or even heard of him before this, but since a it was shared by more than just one person I was curious. Upon reading it though I felt somewhat conflicted.

The basic idea of the blog post is that it shouldn’t surprise people that a church is like a church. Which I essentially agree with. However, I still came out of reading the post feeling like it really missed something. That is what people actually mean when they say the word churchy.

The reality is that different people may use the word in vastly different ways. To me the use of a word like churchy is not simply an adjective for a church doing things to be expected of a church like talking about God, Jesus, sin, etc. To me it is more of a descriptor of the attitude of a church. To me using a phrase like churchy would indicate that the particular church looks like a number of negative stereotypes of church. It’s arrogant, inward focused, quick to judge and slow to show mercy, and more about keeping the church “pure” than about loving others.

I grew up without going to church at all. I wasn’t surprised by a church doing things like talking about God, spirituality or the Bible. That is after all what I assumed a church was for in the first place. Now there may be those who use the word churchy to indicate distaste of such things, but I would imagine that many aren’t using that word simply because a Bible was opened and talked about during the service.

This leads to a greater issue underlying the blog post. In the post the author defines the idea of churchy and leaves little room for any other interpretation of what churchy could mean. He then attacks that notion of the church being too churchy in that way and tries to say how silly it is. We’re just supposed to deal with it, as the title says.

The trouble lies in the fact that there may be people who are using churchy in a very different way. This may even be the vast majority of people, but because we’ve defined it in our own way with very little leeway we totally misunderstand and misrepresent the concerns of those using that word. We simply blame it on a watered down Christianity or a secular culture and begin to refute it.

The truth is people may be using it to say that the church feels ingrown, focused on itself, and has very little interest in seeing beyond its own nose. I don’t think we have to be jerks, as the author puts it, to be churchy in this sense. It could be that or it could just be that we’ve grown too comfortable and accustomed our little bubbles that we’ve created and have a great deal of trouble letting anyone else in, all while being perfectly polite.

I don’t think listening to people is just giving into cultural critique. I don’t think doing a better job at understanding what people mean when they say words like churchy can hurt us. Simply telling people to deal with definitions we’ve made and solutions we’ve provided to that definition doesn’t help anyone. Does this mean that churches shouldn’t be places to teach the Bible and worship God? No, but it does mean that we need to be a whole lot more humble about the way we do it.

I do agree with him ultimately that, “To display Jesus is to be the church.” I guess to me displaying Jesus looks a lot more like listening to people and displaying humility than it does telling people to deal with it. We may be trying to tell people to deal with something they aren’t even bringing up and that just makes us look like fools at best and ignorant jerks at worst.

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