I had a conversation yesterday during which I slipped into sin. Yes, I expressed, in unkind terms, my frustration with ‘church.’ Within the denomination that I have called ‘home’ for my entire lifetime, the politics I see got under my skin. As I fumed, I wondered why I should remain part of it. The Spirit quickly convicted me and brought to mind more than a few lapses in my own life when it came to the fellowship! In those moments, I became like a growing number of Christians who say that they love God but don’t need to be part of a church.
Scandals, abuse, and just plain old hypocrisy gives millions a reason to stay home on Sunday. Around half of Americans do not go to church at all, ever! Most of that group profess a vague kind of spirituality. My concern is for another group of people, those who say that Jesus is their Savior yet refuse to participate in a local church. Many offer stories about a place where they found superficial faith, or met leaders who appeared to be hungry for money, or saw things that seemed inconsistent with Jesus’ message of the Gospel. Some are more direct – “The pastors are boring. Their sermons are disconnected from the world I live in.” Others point to unfriendly people. I’ll agree – all of those things are true somewhere, sometime. (I pray that we do better at Faith Discovery Church!)
Some (I think they are a little more honest) say that they enjoy keeping Sunday free after a busy work week, preferring sleeping in to Scripture study, or a leisurely breakfast to worship.
It is not my intention to make you feel guilty if you are not a regular church attender. The truth is that by avoiding church you are missing out on being all that God desires you to be and others do not benefit from what you can bring to Christ’s church. The normal Christian life, from the first generation, has included being part of a group of those who are disciples of Christ. The Spirit invites us into the Body. We often make the mistake of confusing a building with a Body when we say, ‘church.’
The Church is made up of ALL those who are ‘in Christ.’ It is what Paul describes when he says “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28, NLT) It is hard to see that unity with all the buildings scattered across our towns marked with distinctive names and seldom joining hands or hearts for the Kingdom. I confess the sin of division is too often on display. Perhaps if churches (local congregations) were more intentional about being ‘the Church,’ the Light of Jesus would shine more brightly.
Are you a church skeptic? Been hurt? Disappointed? Just not found what you think you need ‘in church?’ I will risk appearing insensitive by inviting you to ‘get past’ those things so that you can focus on the larger picture. Church is important to your whole experience of Jesus and there are issues that are larger than your personal comfort. Americans love independence. The 11th commandment for many of us is ‘Thou shalt not tell me to do anything unless I feel it is in my best interest.’ That streak of independence often blinds us to the value of that which God deeply loves; His Church. How much does He love Her? “Christ gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.” (Ephesians 5:25-27, NLT)
Instead of abandoning your church in a moment of frustration- re-commit;
first to the mission of Christ Jesus, then to that living Body through that He called into existence to carry it out.
In His final conversation with His disciples Jesus expressed His desire in prayer. “My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory. Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are.“ (John 17:9-11, NLT)
Here’s a word from the Word today.
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” (Ephesians 4:1, NIV)
“It was he (Jesus) who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:11-16, NIV)
The Church’s One Foundation
The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord
She is His new creation
By water and the Word
From heav’n He came and sought her
To be His holy bride
With His own blood He bought her
And for her life He died
Elect from every nation
Yet one o’er all the earth
Her charter of salvation
One Lord one faith one birth
One holy name she blesses
Partakes one holy food
And to one hope she presses
With every grace endued
- Public domain, Samuel Wesley