I have been meeting more and more people, both in person and online through social media sites like Facebook, who aren’t sure they need to go to church to be Christian. They make various arguments, at times they are sincere, but rarely are they based on the bible. I suppose, perhaps, you could be a Christian who doesn’t hold God’s word to be particularly important, but I wonder what sort of Christian that would be. Taking a time away from church either for a short period or a long one, is pretty standard for teenagers, but so too is whining about work, sleeping half the day, playing video games, reading comic books, not brushing teeth, and depending on your parents for food and shelter (a caricature, I know that ignores the good they are capable of). The people I am writing about are mostly adults acting like teenagers at their worst.
Here’s the thing. I know that a time away can be refreshing (I didn’t go to church for years in a teenage huff, and now look at me!). I also know that worshipping communities can burn people and that this happens in all sorts of ways. Despite that being true the bible suggests that Christians participate in communities of faith. There comes a time, I believe, when what was a fair and proper and safe distancing from the worshipping body turns into navel gazing or teenage self-righteousness (we’ve all been there!), it’s like too much of a good thing (if avoiding church can be called good, which in some cases it probably can, for a while). More importantly, I have noticed that neglecting the church seems to turn individual, self-purported Christians, into very poor theologians and bible readers inclined to post all sorts of sloppy thinking about the bible online. That is shame.
It’s a shame because these are mostly good-hearted people trying to understand some of the deeper mysteries of the universe, and they are doing it alone. Most great things are better done in community and with help and without them even the best minds and the best-intentioned hearts are bound to go astray because we live in a broken world which is part of why Proverbs says “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Prov. 27:17, NIV). Community helps us to stay sharp and its helps us to ensure that when we read and interpret the scriptures we do so fairly and accurately. (To be clear I am not suggesting I, as pastor, have all the answers, but that as a community we have a better shot at accuracy than any of us do alone).
The New Testament also suggests this as Hebrews says “let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another” (Heb. 10:24-25a, NIV). Doing good deeds and increasing the amount of love in the world, a sort of shorthand for working towards the Kingdom of God and living to the potential we have within us, is best done in community. The bible knows that we will need encouragement and the church is the place for it.
Let us not give up meeting…it is dangerous to do so.
Let us not give up meeting…lest we become more like world and less like Christ
Let us not give up meeting…even if the world tempts us to.
I don’t intend this to sound harsh or mean, I truly desire that the church be a place people can return to after a period away. I do intend this to sound serious and important, because I believe it is.
I suppose I want to end this little blog post with two pleas
The first is directed to those who have been staying away from church: come back, it will be good for your soul to do so, it may take humility and grace, but with Jesus such things are possible. Please, at the very least read your bible and consider if you are really as correct as you think you are about the role of the community of faith in a life of faith.
To those in the church: please pray for those who are lost, those who are becoming more lost every day. Invite people to church, invite people to come back to church, express to others the role the church plays in your life of faith.
Let us not give up meeting together