Faith on the OutsideAn interesting thought occurred to me the other day. My faith is strengthened more outside of the church than within it. I began to think about that thought and, at first, it scared me a little. Wow, has the church fallen off the track that much? Maybe it has been the churches I have been attending?

It seems that churches should be a place to strengthen our faith rather than diminish it or keep it still.

Maybe some of the articles about how the church has focused too much on performing rather than the message or the actions are true. Maybe the people responsible for leading churches have lost their way and have succumbed to their own personal interests. Maybe the church has just become a club, where certain people get privileges and others should just be glad they can come on Sundays.

This is not an indictment on the church but a thought on where or how our faith can stall.

Over the past year, my faith has been strengthened through reading and doing. I would like to spend more time doing; finding the time is always the challenge. This is not an excuse, just a fact.

In my reading, I hear the seemingly honest voices of Donald Miller and Anne Lamott discussing their everyday life challenges and how those challenges have led them to a bonded faith. Even in reading Hugh MacLeod’s book, you see words which indicate the essential nature of a faith-centered life. And, then with the Beware of Christians movie, I see how a team of young adults can engage in meaningful faith discussions by taking it to many college campuses across the United States. It is not church within four walls, but it is activity out in the real world, living out real faith.

Maybe I am reading too much into their words, or I see my own struggles through their lenses.

In my recent church experiences, I see lots of logistics, classes, and people. I see groups being formed in which some are more cliques than anything else. I see some cattiness and critical remarks about people and how they may approach their own learning or practice of faith.

I also see many good things happening in churches, whether it is a small group of people going to the food pantry to spend the day or having conversations that are raw – real-life, real-faith centered.

And, then my thoughts focus on how this all really makes sense.

Sometimes, I believe, we get too concerned about what happens within the four walls of a church and lose sight of what the real purpose is. Many of the parables, the messages, and the actions in the Bible happened outside the four walls. Faith was experienced and acted upon in the real world. The interaction was with people in their setting, their places.

We see Jesus exemplifying his mission; his faith is out in places, not in a place. We see him replenished by serving, by doing. Getting your hands dirty gets your faith dirty, meaning it is being tested, strengthened, and realized in the interaction of doing.

Maybe that is why some people are questioning church. They see more focus on the inside rather than the outside, if that makes sense. Maybe that is why I am questioning church.

But, in questioning, my faith grows in strength.

I do believe church plays a central role in building my faith: The discipline of worship, the opening of my mind to different perspectives, the challenge of doing better, and the vehicle to serve.

It does not stop there, though. It is a place to remind me to continue to experience, demonstrate, and strengthen my faith outside of the church, in everyday life. Faith keeps my mind focused, my soul centered, and my hands working.