Jane is an average churchgoer. She loves God and wants to grow in him. But her problem is how to bring all aspects of her life together so that is makes sense of her faith. How does she experience church?
She spends most of her time in the ‘godless’ secular space called ‘the world’. On Sunday she goes to church. Church fellowship offers her a neutral kind of space filled with like-minded believers. She feels safe and reassured when she is around them, because the tension she normally feels when ‘in the world’ is temporarily alleviated. After a bit of ‘fellowship’, she goes into the chapel area in response to the call of worship. [i.e. She goes into the main room because the meeting is starting.] The music kicks in, the worship starts and she is drawn up into a form of ecstasy as she begins to engage her heart in the worship of God. And all of a sudden it is as if God ‘bungee jumps’ into the deal. The worship rocks and Jane begins to feel that the sermon really ‘fed her’. So in taking communion she recommits herself to Jesus as personal saviour. The church then sings a few more rousing songs, and the pastor pronounces the benediction, and whoooop! It is as if the bungee cord draws God up again, returning him into heaven. And Jane finds herself back in the middle circle having a coffee or soda with her Christian friends.
But then she has to go out into the world. Labouring as she is under a dualistic worldview and experience, this space in Jane’s perception is a somewhat caustic context for Christians, because God is not perceived as being ‘in the world’. And so it is a somewhat harrowing experience, and she barely makes it to mid-week cell group (home group/connect group), where she undergoes a similar experience to that of Sunday (but not on the same scale). Yes, she has her quiet times when sometimes God ‘turns up’, but other than that she feels that she is rather alone in a spiritually precarious place.
If you will forgive the slightly satirical oversimplification, I’m sure that many of us can recognise ourselves in this story. The tragedy is that everything in this medium of church sets Jane up to experience her life as fundamentally dualistic and therefore divided between the sacred and the secular. No one has necessarily intended it to be this way; it’s just as if a virus somehow got into the system, a nasty sucker that has lodged itself in the fundamental programming that underlies the Christendom software. So no matter how seeker friendly one might wish to make the service, it still communicates this sacred-secular dualism that has plagued the church. The net result of this is that God is experienced as a church-god and not the God of all of life, including church.