I just got back from a scientific research meeting in Spain. While in Spain, I had the opportunity to take the train from Valencia (where I was staying) up to Madrid to spend a day with an old friend. Antonio is a Spaniard and was my roommate and best man in my wedding. I’ve visited him three times in Spain, each time about a decade apart. He was a missionary (although natural born Spaniard) to Spain for many years, just stepping down five years ago.
I listened carefully to some of the ideas that he brings to the table as a non-American. He was Americanized during his 15 years of living in the states. I think his wife, Helena, who has never lived outside of Spain, has had a great influence on him. She is the typical Spaniard, classified as Catholic, but never darkening the doors of a cathedral except for very special occasions. She because a Christians in her twenties, but never plugged into an American-type Protestant church.
Antonio, even though he was a missionary, never goes to church and has not been involved with a church since leaving the states in 1985. He considered it when he got back to Spain, after all he was involved with protestant churches in the U.S. and was being sent by churches as a missionary.
Helena was the first to question him. She thought it was very strange that anyone, especially Christians, would want to get involved with the organized church. She, like most Spaniards, considers it as a black hole of sucking in your time and energy with no clear purpose.
Of course, over the ages it has been argued that a good Christians is very involved with the church. But we must divide Church (the body of Christ) from the human organization we know as “church.” When you think about it, Jesus was unchurched.
Antonio asked me why I go. I am a very honest person, which always gets me into trouble and keeps me on the low end of the popularity list, especially among Christians. I go for two reasons. First of all, I do want at least some Christian friends and in the American society, to have Christian friends you must be involved with a church. Secondly, my wife expects it from me. If I were to stop going it would be a scandal within her entire family and it would create a lot of friction in our marriage. It was the same when I stopped going to her church. Lastly, I go because I do still retain some enjoyment of the Sunday morning service, but not much. I mean if the talk (sermon) is decent and they have some good music, I’m fine with that.
True church, in my opinion, is what I’m about to do in ten minutes . . . go to a small group of Christian friends and do some honest sharing and praying for each other.
But I do think I’m drawing close to point that my next choice, if I don’t stay in my present church, is to become unchurched. I would have to out-live my wife to reach that point, and I hope that never happens.
I may come back to this topic as I do think it is important. I do think the present generation needs “permission” to leave the organized church and still be a Christian. Right now it is swallow the whole thing or leave the faith entirely.