Just Feel Like I Gotta Say This from Time to Time…
If you think you love Jesus, but are not committed to being vitally involved in a community of people who also love Jesus (commonly called a “church), you really don’t love Jesus as much as you’d like to think you do. If you can read the New Testament and miss that, read it again. And again. And again, if necessary.
And yes, I know there are folks who’ve been “burned by a church”, or “abused by a pastor”, etc. To some, it’s happened more than once. I want to say two things that need to be held continually in balance: one, I’m really, really sorry. I really am. When a pastor abuses his authority, or when a pastor is caught in a scandal, it’s abominable, inexcusable (though not unforgivable), a terrible testimony to the Lord for which such a pastor will have to answer. That’s “one”; here’s two: get over it. Take some time to heal–but not by removing yourself from the competent teaching of the Word of God, nor from the genuine fellowship of brothers and sisters in Christ. If “get over it” sounds like a lack of compassion, change your definition of compassion, because the least compassionate thing I could do would be to in any way give you the impression that walking your faith out in the context of a church community is somehow an optional portion of discipleship. It’s not. And so I say again: if you’re not committed to being vitally involved in a community of people who also love Jesus–a church–you’re really not following Jesus very well.
Can’t find one that fits you? OK, again two words, in the form of two possibilities: one, start one. Not one that is “just your family, gathered around the fireplace in your jammies on a Sunday morning”, but a real one, that welcomes other people into it, that meets the minimum definition of what a church is all about (which, incidentally, certainly includes the “house church”, just not the our-fam-in-jammies variety). That’s “one”; here’s two: lighten up. A guy (maybe a lady; don’t remember) who posted on a website I visited recently was talking about how he’d moved from New England ten years ago to North Carolina (Research Triangle, not Squirrel Hollow), and “couldn’t find a church”. Lighten up, folks; if you can’t find a church that fits within one year, the problem is you. Look for counsel from people you trust; do some internet searching; read Joshua Harris’ excellent (and brief!) book Stop Dating the Church. No perfect church out there? You’re right; what’s your point? Find the best one there is, and throw yourself into it, heart and soul. Discipline yourself to recognize that even if it doesn’t have everything your heart desires, it isn’t about you getting pampered like some oversized semi-sanctified cruise-tourist in the pedicure parlor.
I say all of this because of this rumor I hear that an increasing number of our younger people–probably a lot of older folks as well–“just don’t see the point of church”. Please, please read your New Testament until you get it! Because you just can’t possibly live to please Jesus as you oughta as a Christ-follower trying to do the Lone Ranger thing.