‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’”
—Psalm 122:1 (NASB)
At least credit me with the honesty to admit I have not only have become an old codger raving about the “good old days” but may have crossed that line at some unknown point into the land of the old fashioned. But I find that one of the reasons I talk about how people used to “do” church is that the subject comes up so often. And one of the places that I most often begin is the fundamental change in attitude of basing one’s decision of where to attend more on what church can do for me than what I can do for the church.
I believe this fundamental difference is a reflection of church becoming less the literal Body of Christ and more of an institution. An institution is defined by its program offerings and how it appeals to a core constituency; the Body of Christ is defined by its members working in concert to “grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ“. Paul even continues, “from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplied, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”  This requires a significant de-emphasis on “me” and placing an increasing onus on “us”.
One of the reasons such fundamental differences have come about is that many have lost sight of the fact that “the house of the Lord” is not a building or set of programs but is made up of New Testament believers.  The entire concept is approached much differently when you consider it to be the place your true family lives, the place where you come together with your brothers and sisters, the workplace where you actually serve while living IN the world but not OF the world. Believe it or not for the first half of my life every Christian I knew looked for reasons to meet every day if possible, viewing church as the center of their true life in spite of all the world had to offer. We were really and truly glad to go as often as possible.
The reality of my old age really slapped me silly when a number of years ago I had to troubleshoot why a local church with a sizable teen demographic and dedicated teen ministry staff was experiencing visibly low participation by same. I was amazed at the overwhelming number of Christian parents who with no hesitation at all explained, “We don’t want them to become too involved in church; we want them to grow up with ‘balanced’ lives by being involved in things other than just church.” To many, “church” has become a commodity providing a service, not the place for God’s anointed, holy and set apart from the world to serve Him alone.
Most often this discussion can be characterized by appropriating John Kennedy’s famous quote, “Ask not what you can do for church but what church can do for you”. I think we have entered into a time when one of the ways true believers can be differentiated from nominal, cultural Christians is their attitude of service or lack thereof.†††