You Must Be Mistaken; This is the Church Not the Bathroom
Instead of delving in depth into
Scripture, I’ll share an analogy I find humorous although unsettling. These
observations are based on almost forty years of church attendance. The opinions
expressed are my own and I do so with a slight bit of trepidation. My hope, to
convey my thoughts in a way that make you chuckle; to tackle a sensitive
subject with a light hearted twist. If you say “ouch” may it be between laughs.
My premise presented is this: people, including Christians, confuse the church
with a bathroom. There are similarities, but they are definitely different.
First –both are identified with a
specific, physical location. In every city and town, large or small you will
find bathrooms and churches. They come in all sizes, shapes and décor. Homes,
commercial and industrial complexes, business and retail spaces, governmental and municipal buildings all have bathrooms. Churches are found in
these same locations in addition to structures specifically built for their
The bathroom has come a long way. From
the outhouse out back, to a room large enough to hold basic necessities, bathrooms
can be spa-like retreats complete with whirlpool tub, oversized shower,
custom fixtures and lighting, wrapped in marble and granite. Bigger is better
with no expense spared. Churches have also evolved from simple structures with plain benches, pulpit, and funeral parlor fan climate control to high tech facilities
with comfortable seating, educational and special event annexes and the latest
addition (and my personal favorite), the coffee shop.
I’ve discovered an attitude about
upgrades available for bathrooms and churches. I don’t recall hearing
complaints about a well designed and appointed bathroom. However, I have heard
individuals rant and rave over what is deemed money wasted on “luxurious”
church buildings. It appears that finances are no object when our most personal
needs are at stake. For spiritual matters, “spare the buck or you will spoil
the congregation, not to mention the preacher!” (book of Contusions) That said
there are probably instances when bathrooms and churches do go “over the top”.
These are the exceptions and not the rule and who are we to judge?
Second – bathrooms and churches serve
similar functions. Both provide opportunities for self improvement. We may need
a simple splash of water on our face, a long relaxing soak in a tub or a
complete scrubbing after a dirty job. When sickness hits, the bathroom is one
of the first places we run. Many have spent time hugging a certain fixture like
a best friend. Bathrooms are designed to receive and sanitarily remove all the
waste materials our bodies output. When we are finished, we close the door and
leave the mess behind us.
Churches work much the same way.
Depending on one’s spiritual condition, state of mind and life circumstances
the results of attendance varies. We may need a pick-me-up or a tweak that
revitalizes a stale spot; an opportunity to collectively soak in the presence
of God (Who does not live there but in each believer); or a cleansing from
defilement that has attached itself to us. This accomplished, we leave and should re-enter the outside world a better person.
Third – there is a popular slogan,
“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” which implies that behavior there is
out of the “norm”, often of a nature not suitable for discussion in polite
company. Innuendos are made, jokes are told off the cuff. Better to keep these
activities to one self.
This can be applied to bathroom usage.
Although humor about what happens behind its door peppers comedy routines and
occasional conversations, we all know occurs there. Expounding on the details
of one’s visit to the facility is TMI – too
Some people classify church attendance
in this catagory; “What happens in the church stays in the church.” Plenty of religious
versions of bathroom jokes poke fun at the establishment and those who believe
in it. Life inside its four walls is “private”, definitely not open for discussion.
Despite similarities the church and
the bathroom are vastly different. Failure to discern this may explain
attitudes directed toward religious institutions, especially Christianity.
First – bathrooms are tangible
structures in physical locations, the church is not. Scripturally defined, the
church is an assembly of people, not a building or structure. Where and how a
branch of the church meets may impose an identity upon it. Groups gathering in
established locations, or affiliated with recognized denominations may be looked
upon as “official” or “real” churches, as opposed to home based fellowships
without organizational ties. Value based on these criteria is worthless. Where
the church meets is inconsequential. What happens when they do is what is important.
Second – in both bathrooms and
churches our most intimate, personal and at times stinky and messy issues are
dealt with. A bathroom contains equipment specifically designed for this
purpose; inanimate objects devoid of feelings and emotions. The frequency of
use is immaterial, physical condition unimportant (except to the user). Barring
mechanical failure the system works flawlessly without complaint.
The church, however, is people and
people have feelings and emotions. In a perfect world, all believers would act
like Jesus all the time. They would handle anything thrown at them like a fine
tuned piece of precision machinery operating on the high test fuel of God’s
love and emerge unscathed every time (sounds like La-La Land). The church is
expected to meet all types of needs: help, healing, restoration,
reconciliation, etc. and failure to do so invokes criticism and judgment. Does
this occur because most expect more from others as a rule, than from themselves?
The statement, “I have a problem with religion and the church but not with God”
makes me wonder. Were the speaker’s failed expectations the result of fatigue on
the part of a church being treated like a bathroom? Believers have problems also
that need to be addressed and ministered to. In order to give of themselves,
they need time to be refilled. Pressing circumstances in someone’s life can
blind them to the humanity and frailties of those who try to help. This could
be the root of some of the dissatisfaction leveled at the church as a whole.
Third – “What happens in the church
stays in the church” is only partially true. Those in distress, in need of
salvation, help, healing, and deliverance etc. must know their “business” will
be handled with compassion and confidentiality. Life is messy, the clean up
process loving and sensitive. Corrective actions may be taken, but done in an
atmosphere of respect for the individual and all other parties involved.
Church is not a place we check into
once or twice a week to experience our spiritual side. Our life outside its
walls is not separate from the one inside. The dynamic of corporate worship and
fellowship, coupled with our personal discipline of spiritual growth and
development, empowers us to face challenges encountered daily.
Some consider their relationship
with God a “private” matter, not a subject for conversation. I disagree.
Christianity is a lifestyle that takes place for the most part outside of the
place we worship. Speaking for myself, at times I have not been open and vocal
about my beliefs due to embarrassment. I want to be liked and accepted and not
considered a religious wacko or fanatic. This is wrong on my part. My
relationship with God is nothing to be ashamed of. I have not always acted as I
should. Perhaps I was tired of being used as a depository for unsanitary stuff.
Nevertheless, Who God is and what He has done for me is nothing to be silent or
Everyone needs a Savior. If
everything that happens in the church stays in the church how will those outside
its walls, who don’t know God, ever learn He exists? How will they know He
loves them, has a destiny for their lives and answers to the problems they face?
Our role in helping those in need at times be unpleasant yet every individual deserves
attention. Not always the cleanest or neatest job, the eternal benefits for
others and for us outweigh the downside. God empowers individuals to deal with
the mess in their lives and to come out smelling like roses, just like another
bathroom staple, air freshener.