I’m a Christian but I don’t go to church…
This is a frequent statement from Christians who don’t want to be part of that ‘crowd’ that they see in the media. You know, the ones who picket funerals and scream out God’s condemnation on everyone. There are so many testimonies of people who have left Christianity because of the church and there are many people who call themselves Christians but don’t go to church. Though I agree, Christians can be annoying, there is quite a lot to be said for the church biblically and spiritually, as well as emotionally and socially. If you agree with the title, please read on and feel free to comment if you disagree with this post. I would love to have a discussion about it.
What is church?
Before we go into any sort of discussion, I want to define church as I see it biblically. Church is a community of Christians coming together in the presence of God (Matthew 18:20, Acts 2:42-47), focused on Christ (1 Corinthians 4, Colossians 1:15-23), worshipping (1 Corinthians 14:26), teaching (2 Timothy 4:1-2), discussing and learning, challenging (1 Corinthians 5) and allowing the Holy Spirit to work which can open the church up to spiritual gifts such as prophecy, healing and speaking in tongues (1 Corinthians 12). The community of Christians (Church) should also be a place where needs are met, where the widows and orphans are cared for (1 Timothy 5:3-8), where the poor are helped with their needs and people share their belongings without question or expectation of return (Acts 2:42-47, Acts 4:32-37). Divisions within the church should also be dealt with quickly and gracefully (Matthew 18:16-18, 1 Corinthians 1:10-17). Notice there isn’t much in the bible about the building in the bible but more about the people. This gives us a lot of flexibility about how church is done, hence why there are so many different churches around. As long as you have a community of Christians meeting together and seeking, worshipping and learning about Christ then you have a church.
Often this isn’t the case with church and I have many friends who are like me and look at the Bible and see a completely different type of church from the ones we often attend. I am fortunate to be part of a family of churches that seek to be biblical in their teaching and in their structure. They don’t always get it right but that is part of being human. Before all else, we need to remember that the church is managed by humans who are seeking Christ, this means there tends to be mistakes. There is no such thing as a perfect church, BUT, the church leadership should be led by Christ (by the Holy Spirit, by prayer and by the bible) and by this, as long as mistakes are learnt from, we can encourage our leaders rather than pull them down. Many churches struggle with an imbalance, many focus too heavily on the miraculous or the blessings (see my post on the prosperity gospel), many focus too much on the social action and others focus just on themselves rather than looking outward. The parts of church you struggle with are probably parts that you are called to help out in, just turn that frustration into a passion to see something change for good…
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RECOMMENDED RESOURCE: Church: Why Bother? by Philip Yancey
Insights from Philip Yancey’s personal pilgrimage away from and back to the church. Why are there so many more professing Christians than churchgoing Christians? Is it because something is wrong with the church? In his candid, thought-provoking manner, award-winning author Philip Yancey reveals the reasons behind his own journey back from skepticism to wholehearted participation in the church, and weighs the church’s human failings against its compelling worth as the body of Christ. Yancey does not whitewash the church’s faults, rather he sets them against the overwhelming balance of its strengths: its heart for God, its care for the hurting, its outreach to the lost, and its value as family and community.
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