The Myth of the Armchair

A few years ago I had an interesting conversation with a man who could not find a church to attend. He had two complaints: he didn’t feel like people “cared” for him at church, and he didn’t always agree with the choice of music on Sunday morning. “And so,” he said, “I just get my church on TV. Right here from my armchair.” After hearing his story, I wondered if he thought the people on TV cared for him or if the music on TV was always agreeable.  It was some time later that I learned about a deacon in our church who tried to reach out to the man who was “getting” his church on TV. After meeting with the man, the deacon visited with me and recounted an entirely different list of complaints and concerns. That’s when I realized that a deeper misunderstanding might be at work.

Church isn’t something you get, and even when it’s a place you are able to go, it’s still not church unless you get it or go to it in response to God’s calling on your life. The myth of the armchair church had clouded the man’s vision and sapped his ability to experience the fullness of God’s invitation to be the church in the world. The deacon did get what church was really about, because he remained burdened and concerned for the man. Some might have given up on the man, but the deacon planned to continue to pray for him and to visit him again in the future. Every time the deacon prayed for the man or visited the man, church was happening, even if the man didn’t recognize it.

The deacon cared for the man, not because he agreed with him or found his complaints to all be valid. He cared for him because he was following God’s calling on his life to be the presence of Christ in the world. It’s easy to pick on the man in his armchair without realizing that it’s possible to lose sight of God’s calling to be the church even when we attend services every week. We are blessed at Smoke Rise with so many followers of Jesus who are working to be the church for each other and for our world. If you’ve been tempted to take up an armchair, don’t do it. Even if you are truly limited to just an armchair, your prayers for the church are still invaluable. God has a place for each of us as we strive to be the church God has called us to be.

-Bart McNiel

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