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How Do You Feel About Church


There is a word that, when a Catholic hears it, kindles all his feeling of love and bliss; that stirs all the depths of his religious sensibilities, from dread and awe of the Last Judgment to the sweetness of God’s presence; and that certainly awakens in him the feeling of home; the feeling that only a child has in relation to its mother, made up of gratitude, reverence, and devoted love; the feeling that overcomes one when, after a long absence, one returns to one’s home, the home of one’s childhood.

And there is a word that to Protestants has the sound of something infinitely commonplace, more or less indifferent and superfluous, that does not make their heart beat faster; something with which a sense of boredom is so often associated, or which at any rate does not lend wings to our religious feelings – and yet our fate is sealed, if we are unable again to attach a new, or perhaps a very old, meaning to it. Woe to us if that word does not become important to us soon again, does not become important in our lives.

Yes, the word to which I am referring is ‘Church,’ … – Bonhoeffer

Sistine ChapelI know this feeling. I’ve felt it before, and sometimes I still feel it. There is a reason they had Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel. It created a massive feeling of involvement in God’s world on behalf of the people. And it certainly is not about the building. It is about what happens in the building, and who is in the building. The building gives meaning to that. I certainly do not mean to suggest that because, as Protestants, we don’t have famous painters decorating our ceilings we do not care about what goes on inside the walls. But in my own experience in different settings and different churches I’ve founded a marked difference. The Catholics and Anglicans treat church and Church as very serious (despite what we might think of strangeness and hypocritical eccentrices), whereas it does not seem that Protestants do. And that is just my thought and experience on the matter. We say that church and Church are very important, but our actions do not seem to match. And it makes me sad.

15 Responses to “How Do You Feel About Church”

  1. on 19 Jan 2009 at 8:25 amSean

    And what about those who are neither Catholic nor Protestant? What about those who find ourselves more akin to the Anabaptists than anyone else? What of the home fellowship?

  2. on 19 Jan 2009 at 9:03 amMark C.

    When you say that the Catholics and Anglicans treat church and Church as more “serious” than Protestants, I have to wonder in what sense. If you mean “serious” in the sense of crucial, or important, I think many Protestants look at it that way too. If you mean “serious” in the sense of heavy, or somber, then I agree, but I think it’s a good thing. I’m glad that most Protestants don’t treat it that way. I grew up in the Roman Catholic Church and experienced that kind of “seriousness,” and felt relieved when I learned it didn’t have to be that way.

    I’m glad Sean mentioned the home fellowship. I spent twenty years with The Way, and another ten in various offshoots, and in that environment the home fellowship was the standard. I have learned to appreciate a “regular” church service such as mainstream denominations might have, and people from that background tend to feel more at home with that. But I feel most comfortable in a small, family-like setting. But then there are others who aren’t comfortable with any organized religion, but still love God and study the Bible.

    These days I am inclined to think that God is more interested in what we do than where we do it. And He is certainly big enough and diversified enough to be worshiped in a variety of ways and a variety of settings. He meets us where we are, and will be what we need Him to be.

  3. on 19 Jan 2009 at 9:43 amJohnO


    Anabaptists are Protestants. Answer the home fellowship question for yourself 🙂 As for me, I find that when most Protestants do “church” on a larger scale than a home meeting the atmosphere is exactly the same.


    God is more interested in what we do than where we do it

    Of course he is – but how you do it is reflected of how you feel about it. And certain of the Protestant attitudes and methods of “doing church” make me think that we feel very apathetic about it.

  4. on 19 Jan 2009 at 10:33 amFrank D

    As a former Roman Catholic, church was boring and maintaining the Church sucked up money that could have been better spent in our poor community. We had stained glass windows valued at over $10M in a small Arizona town of less than 8 thousand people.

    I’v been in St. Peter’s Bassilica in Rome. You could feed the entire country of Mexico for decades with all the gold and ‘treasures’ the Vatican has. IMHO, the history of the Catholic church would indicate they value the Church over the church.

    These are probably the hypocritical eccentricities you were refering to, John, but please don’t be sadend by the appearance of a Catholic church vs a Protestant church. There are much better buildings:

    I Corinthians 3:9:
    For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.

  5. on 19 Jan 2009 at 10:45 amSean


    Anabaptists, Spiritualists, and Evangelical Rationalists (unitarians) were the three subdivisions of the Radical Reformation. They were savagely rejected and murdered by both Catholics and Protestants. To say Anabaptists are Protestants is to be historically negligent.

  6. on 19 Jan 2009 at 11:15 amJohnO


    The Anabaptists took what the Protestants did further than the Protestants, but it was still the same spirit – which is why it garnered a reaction from the Protestants in the same vein as the Protestants got a reaction from the Catholics (hatred and violence). They’re the ultra-Protestants. And in many of the same ways they fall prey to some of the short-comings that I’m talking about when “doing church” that the Protestants do. Though in some ways (like the creation of Kingdom communities) they vastly succeed beyond Catholic approaches in proving what they think and feel about “doing church”.

    Frank D,

    It is not the appearance. It is the reverence that I see in their liturgy and meaning found in their images and practices. The appearance only reinforces that. And yes the Catholics should be spending just as much money if not more on the problems we see in the world. But last time I checked – they do that in building most of the hospitals in the world, etc.

  7. on 19 Jan 2009 at 12:38 pmSean


    One other distinction is that Anglicans have not historically considered themselves Catholic or Protestant.

    Furthermore, there are a good many Lutheran and Presbyterian churches (most decidedly Protestant) that enjoy a highly liturgical form of worship each Sunday in fancy buildings.

  8. on 19 Jan 2009 at 2:39 pmJohnO


    I’m sad I have to argue semantics, Anglicans/Catholics are the nearly the same tradition (which is why it is called the Anglo-Catholic tradition) and have largely the same views on sooo much.

    I know that Lutherans have liturgy. As far as Bonhoeffer goes, his statement would stand – they is still a difference in the way they perceive “doing Church”, despite the liturgy. Though, Luther himself is closer to Catholicism (despite history’s slanted understanding him) than what Lutheran churches are today.

  9. on 19 Jan 2009 at 7:22 pmBrian


    First a quick note — you made a comment to Brian that I think you meant for MarkC since I haven’t commented here yet.

    You make reference, as did Bonhoeffer, to the “feeling” that one has in regards to “Church.” Since we are discussing feelings, it is going to be very subjective. As one who was brought up in the Roman Catholic Church, my feelings are for the most part negative towards the feeling that I get when I enter a big church building. There were times that there was a sense of awe and worship when I was younger, but the problem was that what ever my attitudes were, they were not based on the truth of the Scripture. For most Roman Catholics, who have a woefully inadequate knowledge of the Scriptures, their whole sense of who God is, is derived from what takes place in the church building — in fact, for most, you would think that God did not exist outside of that building.

    I do think this is a hard sell for those of us who were brought up going to church buildings that were spiritually dead. I’ll’ take “doing church” in a tent or a living room or a back yard any day, so long as there is spiritual life there.

    I wonder if God was pleased with how that paint job in the Sistine Chapel was financed?

  10. on 19 Jan 2009 at 10:54 pmJohnO


    Whoops, sorry yes that goes for Mark’s comment.

    As for this

    For most Roman Catholics … their whole sense of who God is, is derived from what takes place in the church building

    Would that not be every single experience that the Jews in Jerusalem would have in regards to the Temple? And the same for those in the diaspora in the Synagogue? Isn’t what you term “spiritual life” the same as experiencing God in a place? If a church building can do that isn’t it doing its job? And if a church building does not reflect (by what is done in it, and how it is treated, not by how it looks) God and He is not met there, isn’t it failing in doing its job?

    I guess I’m unsure how the appeal to “knowing the Scriptures by reading the good Book”, which, again, is an entirely western post-enlightenment (and therefore culturally informed opinion) deflates the experience of God in another way.

  11. on 20 Jan 2009 at 12:33 amMark C.

    As for this

    For most Roman Catholics … their whole sense of who God is, is derived from what takes place in the church building

    Would that not be every single experience that the Jews in Jerusalem would have in regards to the Temple? And the same for those in the diaspora in the Synagogue? Isn’t what you term “spiritual life” the same as experiencing God in a place? If a church building can do that isn’t it doing its job? And if a church building does not reflect (by what is done in it, and how it is treated, not by how it looks) God and He is not met there, isn’t it failing in doing its job?

    If I’m not mistaken, the synagogues were considered a meeting place for the Jews of the diaspora, but not the dwelling place of God as the Temple in Jerusalem was. That Temple was the only building ever considered God’s dwelling, and it was replaced by the Body of Christ. In the Christian era I don’t think “experiencing God” should be limited to a building, so no, it’s not “doing its job.”

    How people experience or relate to God varies even within a denomination. There are some Catholics or Anglicans who have a healthy sense of reverence in their liturgy, but there are also some Protestants, in various denominations, who have that as well. And there is an equally healthy sense of approachability in some areas of both Catholic and Protestant churches. And there are also some who are bored and just going through the motions in virtually every church.

    It’s certainly true that “how you do it is reflected of how you feel about it.” But there are attitudes and methods of “doing church” which reflect a sense of apathy in the Roman Catholic church as well as Protestant or other denominations. It isn’t unique to any one denomination.

    Besides, whether it’s better to have reverence in liturgy or a more casual approach depends on the needs of the people. While there are some who are apathetic, there are also instances where people just prefer a casual approach, even though they may appear apathetic to the “old-school” members who prefer “heavy and somber.”

    I don’t think any of these traits can be said to be consistently characteristic of the whole denomination. Within each one there are cultural differences in various geographical areas, and local differences within that. And there are individual differences in attitude within the congregations. This is the great variety in the Body of Christ.

  12. on 20 Jan 2009 at 9:15 amSean


    I believe the idea of making ornate Christian churches came from Constantine who patterned the churches he used government funds to construct after the glorious pagan temples of his time.

  13. on 20 Jan 2009 at 2:52 pmRay

    I think I could live with a church that meets in nearly any kind
    of building depending on the character of it (the people).

    Suppose I went to a church that had gargoyles on it’s streetside
    gutters, and I told the pastor, an elder, or a congregant that I think
    they are creepy and that I wished they were taken down, for they
    remind me of something evil overlooking us, as if they intend to
    ward someone or something off as if it were their territory or something. In my opinion they seem to serve no godly purpose
    here and may be hindering others from coming to worship God here. Some might drive by and even despise us because of them.

    What might be some of the possible responces?

    Congregant: 1. I hear what you are saying brother, and I advise
    you to keep quiet about this. I brought it up before
    and I wasn’t heard. Save yourself the trouble. Just
    sit down, keep quiet on things and enjoy the
    service and give your tithes. That’s the only way
    to get along here. Smile a lot too.

    2. That’s a good observation I think. I though much
    the same about it, but I didn’t want to bring it up
    because I thought there might be trouble.

    3. I think the same way. Let’s go together and talk
    to an elder or the pastor about this. Maybe there
    is money in the budget to get them removed if no
    one is in objection to it.

    Elder: 1. This building is historical and since we do not want to
    change the character of it we decided to leave them be.
    That was decided years ago by the majority of the

    2. I agree with you, but there’s nothing I can do about it.
    3. It doesn’t really matter if those things are there. If you
    don’t like our church I suggest you find another.

    Pastor: 1. We believe they represent well the angels of God, and
    their spiritual significance is important to me.
    2. I hate those things as well as you do. I wish I had more
    support with the church for getting rid of those things.
    3. Who are you to criticize our church? I see you didn’t
    shave well this morning did you, and your shirt isn’t
    pressed well is it? I see a few wrinkles in it. What have
    you been doing with God in your life? Have you decided
    to serve him or to judge others instead?

    Life sure can be full of troubles and opportunities isn’t it?

    II Samuel 1:3
    And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right;
    but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee.

    How I wish all men would be willing to do the work Absalom was
    willing to do, but not for recognition of men, the glory of man, position or promotion, or for money, or to have power to oppress
    others, but for the purposes of Jer 22:16, that he might get to know God and that it might be well with him.

    Wouldn’t it be good if all churches had people who would be willing
    to hear matters and make a plea for mercy on behalf of anyone who is oppressed by another?

    Wouldn’t it be good if people together, by the power of the cross
    and the instruction of the scriptures, could find out what is right
    (for isn’t righteousness always the heart of the matter) in mercy
    and truth together, through the grace that is in the Lord Jesus?

    I think if we could do that, it wouldn’t matter what the building looked like that we meet in, for the glory of the Lord would overtake everything around it, and make the changes he wants
    in people and things.

  14. on 21 Jan 2009 at 9:27 amJohn Hawkins

    Hi all,

    First I am married to a Catholic and am the only person in my extended family that is not Catholic. I do not see them ever thinking of Church or church the same way as described above. I hear them lament about their masses as much or more than when I went to church regularly.
    Currently I do not attend a church (or Church) as most would believe it to be. The reason being is that there are not any common believers that have a specified building to go to. I study the Bible with a group of open minded believers at my work. I do not need a specified time or place to meet to worship God. I do need a group of believers to meet with, share ideas, discuss successes and troubles, study the Bible, sing praises with, and gain strength from to grow in my beliefs and worship God. I feel I can do that anywhere and do not need a time or a place to do so.

    So in short, I don’t think that all Catholics feel, as described above, about church. To me the building is not what inspires feelings of longing to be with God and the good feelings that come from reading His word, no it’s how I feel when I meet with my friends at work, or the quiet time in the mornings before the world gets busy. That is what invokes the feelings of joy, peace, and comfort I get from my worship of God.

    Thanks, John H

  15. on 03 Mar 2009 at 2:29 pmrobert

    the question to ask yourself
    can you prove and reprove everything in your church building using the WORD OF GOD. if you cant then it has no place.
    can you make sure it doesnt have a dual purpose.
    if you cant then it has no place.
    what could we make as man that would show the glory of GOD and if we say that it is a symbol for GOD then are we not trying to become the creator.
    you want a church building then decorate it with the WORD OF GOD which is the only symbol accepted by GOD.
    if your church building needs symbols and beautiful decorations to get GOD’S people to come then you need to question who it serves. man or GOD
    hold to the truth alone so no man takes your crown


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