These two places are different but they have one big thing in common. I'll get to that in a moment.
The first place was Walmart. Walmart is a place I occasionally go to get something I need. Usually I prowl for school supplies or hit the pharmacy for ibuprofen. Once a year I wander over to the outdoor gear to prepare for Camp Westminster.
The other place I was just in, a place quite different, was the DMV. I have to say the DMV these days is way better than when I was a teenager. Things move along at such a steady clip. Either that or I am a lot more patient than I use to be. Why was I at the DMV? I was replacing my license and so like everyone else that was there I was keeping up my driving credentials. The occasional trip to the DMV keeps me from running afoul of the authorities.
Both Walmart and the DMV are incidental to life, not the marrow of it. The marrow of life is back home among family and among those I serve in my vocation.
When I am at Walmart I am not taking names and asking soulful questions to the guy stocking beans. If I never went to Walmart again my conscience would not be afflicted in the least. And the good folks at Walmart would not come looking for me. My absence would not disturb them. Only if I started sleeping in the home goods department would I be a bother.
Same with the DMV. When I am at the DMV, I am not deepening special friendships. I am there to keep a good record. Nobody there expects anything more of me than my personal check and change-of-address. They won't ask me about my favorite foods because, quite frankly, it would only hold up the line.
I am afraid we sometimes think our church family is like Walmart or the DMV.
But, of course, the churches of Jesus Christ are unlike both of these.
Life in the congregation is not one more social arrangement I manage like all the others I am involved in. The triune God rules and directs my life in the church. We know this because we have heard the Word of God. Even so, we sometimes lack courage and allow what is culturally acceptable to determine the shape of congregational life more than scripture.