Are Christians encouraged to spend too much time in church?
For a dedicated church member there are a lot of activities. In addition to weekly Sunday services there are men's groups, women's groups, Bible study, committees, book clubs, mums and bubs play groups, music practice, leaders' meetings... any number of weekly commitments waiting to take up our time.
The intentions are good: building relationships, encouraging each other, praying for our community and growing in faith, but is the outcome always good?
A few years ago my husband struggled to keep up with his tennis club and with his church activities. It was hard to do both.
Tennis was the only place he really connected with non-church goers in a way where meaningful friendships developed. There were some people who thought he should just quit tennis because he would occasionally prioritise it over church activities.
Of course church is more than just Sunday morning; we are called to be a place of family, friendship and fellowship—and these things take time.
But connections in the community are equally crucial.
The third place
There is an urban planning concept called 'the third place'. It refers to social surroundings apart from work and home, which are the first two places presumably. The third place is where meaningful relationships grow and develop within a community.
For some it is the pub or a cafe, or a mothers' group, and for some it's a sports club. It could be anywhere.
But if church becomes the only third place for Christians we become isolated.
It is so easy and tempting to treat church as our only third place. We feel comfortable; it becomes the place we make friends and connect. We feel so righteous being able to say 'I was 'doing church' every day this week, I'm really focusing on God'.
But if we stay inside our church buildings, what happens to everyone outside?
It's easy to see why church activities start to take up so much time in our lives.
Meeting together is important for Christians. The Bible encourages believers to 'not give up meeting together' (Hebrews chapter 10, verse 25) as it is the primary way we encourage and support one another in faith.
Praying is good, bible studies are good, as are house groups, marriage courses, worship groups, leaders' meetings, and of course the Sunday service. Add into the mix conferences and visiting speaker events and you've got a full schedule!
Are we so busy that we forget to reach out to those waiting outside the walls of the church building?
American pastor Rick Warren recently encouraged Christians to reach out in friendship to those around them, 'As you build relationships with people around you and share Truth with them, you are to be in the world but not of the world'.
One church has addressed this by telling members they should all join a club—find something they genuinely love doing and then join a non-Christian club to do it.
God calls Christians to be set apart in the way they act—to be holy like he is holy—not set apart in proximity. Physical distance from the world does not equate holiness. In fact, God calls us to go into the world.
We are called to be salt and light—to be flavoursome and reflect the light of Christ in the darkness of this world. We are called to be Christ's ambassadors, his representatives. We are called to be God's hands and feet, demonstrating his actions. How can we do any of these things if we are too busy with church activities?
Kara Greening trained in biology, works in chemistry and wonders about the physics of the tardis in Doctor Who. She is passionate about exploring her faith and being wholehearted in life. She is married to a primary school teacher and they have two fluffy fat cats.
Kara Greening's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/kara-greening.html