Church is more than Chapel

Church is more than Chapel

As I observe, as I travel and as I talk to other leaders, I see many things in our culture being reduced to its simplest and most convenient form. For instance, let’s examine fast food. Don’t get me wrong, there are many times when I want food fast and when I need food on the run. The idea of fast food screams simple and convenient which can be good or bad. But don’t be deceived. We are paying the price for eating high calorie, high fat and high salt food for our insatiable demand for simplicity and convenience. Beyond that, don’t forget those mystery items on the menu like so-called fish sandwiches. Which fish would that be? Exactly! These sandwiches are made in the same fashion that sawmills make plywood.  They just take all the scraps from all the fish they process and somehow mold (glue?) them together and cover it over with some tasty breading. Oh yum!

If that doesn’t get your attention than what about the famous, or should I say infamous, hotdog? Wait a minute. What exactly is a hotdog anyhow? Actually, it is the result of grinding and trimming meat to the simplest and most convenient form. That’s right. Hot dogs are ground beef or ground pork trimmings from pieces of the meat that don’t make the grade as steaks and roasts. If that’s not simple or convenient enough you can get less expensive hot dogs made from chicken or turkey using low-cost mechanically separated poultry. And don’t overlook the copious amounts of added salt and the conspicuous red dye. Is that why we load our hotdogs with chili or lots of ketchup and mustard and relish? Or maybe because it makes a simple, convenient and cheap meal? Yes, of course.

If you’re still not impressed, what about “Hamburger Helper?” I don’t know about you, but I never really thought my hamburger ever needed a helper. Well, maybe some ketchup, mustard, onion, pickles and mayonnaise. But certainly not a box of dried and seasoned powder that they recommend stirring into my ground beef. Now if that isn’t reducing something to its simplest and most convenient form, I don’t know what is.

Think about this. If you show someone a freshly prepared walleye or halibut in one hand and a square, breaded and assorted fish patty in the other, people instantly know the breaded fish patty is a simple and convenient form of the real thing. Likewise, if you show someone a nice, thick ribeye in one hand and a red tubular looking object (hotdog) in the other, there is simply no comparison. And, for that matter, if you hold a nicely prepared hamburger with all the toppings on a soft bun in one hand and a bag of mystery powder in the other, I think you know the response.

Speaking of simple and convenient, why in the world have we settled for chapel instead of church?  What is the difference anyway? A church is led by Christ. He is the head of the church. A church is the body and bride of Christ represented by followers of Christ. The church loves and glorifies God. The church worships, prays, serves and studies together developing deep and abiding relationships with willing accountability. This sort of describes a family doesn’t it (Acts 2:41-47)? Furthermore, the church has a mission of developing disciples who make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). In fact, the church has a diversity of ministries such as worship, discipleship, fellowship, service, outreach, missions and prayer making room for each Christian to consistently use their spiritual gifts and talents.

In contrast to a church, a chapel is like cheap trimmings from meat that don’t otherwise make a good steak. In many cases, we have reduced church to its simplest and most convenient form and that is … chapel. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when a chapel meets a critical need especially in a hospital or funeral setting. Admittedly, the chapel has a specific purpose to encourage peace and comfort. However, there is no accountability and commitment. People come and go when it’s convenient. In any case, it isn’t church any more than a hotdog is a good ribeye or a fish sandwich from a fast food restaurant is a freshly prepared walleye. So why do we tend to want to reduce church to just a chapel?  The same reason we eat hotdogs. It is simple and convenient.

You may have noticed; many people treat the church like a chapel and thus the local church is often reduced to a worship service on Sunday morning. In fact, their definition of church is a so-called chapel service on Sunday morning. As a result, this mindset and practice is a leading reason why the remaining ministries of a New Testament church often suffer or die off. Moreover, as you know, a growing number of people have very busy schedules and other gods that impede their service within the context of the mission and ministry of the local church to include investing in the spiritual growth of others. What is left?  You might say, a hotdog church.

Why has this happened? A chapel doesn’t demand anything from us. In fact, the mission is people centric. Contrastingly, the ministry of the local church is God centric and otherwise demanding. If you think about it, church demands much more than just chapel attendance. Jesus calls His church to follow Him and even die for Him without considering themselves (Luke 9:23). If nothing less, it demands an investment of money, devotion, time and talents. Yes, that’s right. It is demanding, rarely convenient and never simple. Beyond that, people are messy, relationships are messy, and ministry is even messier.

So why must we demand church instead of chapel? In other words, why take the time to properly prepare a ribeye, grill it to perfection and sit down and savor it bite after bite? Because, church, not chapel, is Jesus’ idea (Matthew 16:13-20). More than that, the church is His bride and His body. Even more, the church is focused on Jesus and His mission not simplicity or convenience. In other words, it’s always about Him! His call, His commands, His will and His glory regardless the cost.

I don’t know about you but I’m tired of fast food like hotdogs, fish sandwiches and please, don’t even mention hamburger helper. Likewise, I’m weary of chapel minded Christians who demand simplicity and convenience in lieu of commitment and service. Instead, I want to eat healthy food and participate in a healthy New Testament church. I want people to be able to see the difference between an authentic New Testament church that makes disciples who make disciples and a so-called chapel. Don’t you? If you want your local church to be a healthy and thriving New Testament church that honors Jesus and resists the movement of being reduced to a chapel, join us in practicing the following 7 habits:

  1. Pray without ceasing
  2. Study, meditate and memorize scripture
  3. Regularly and consistently participate in worship
  4. Develop a missionary mindset … make disciples who make disciples
  5. Participate in a small group and help the group reproduce
  6. Regularly and consistently serve based on your God-given spiritual gift expanding the ministry and impact of your local church
  7. Give generously

A Work in Progress,

Pastor Gene