In the last hour or so, my heart has suddenly become heavy. I've been on-again-off-again inviting a friend (who's identity I'll obscure) to come to my church some Sunday mornings. Sometimes he'll have to work, which is totally understandable. Other times, it was because he was working the night before or that afternoon. Reasons that struck me as odd, but I didn't totally know his schedule, so I let it go. But now it has come to light that he doesn't like church. I don't know why. But I told him I'd stop pestering him until we had a chance to talk.
My mind is racing with thoughts and I need to get them out. My friend often comes to community group on Tuesday nights. It's not even really a community group, the way they are intended to be at my church. It's more like a "house church." I mean, we can run 20-30 people sometimes. So how is that different from the building down the street that is open Sundays, instead? It's not different in my mind. Church is not a building, as any follower of Christ will tell you. The church is the body of Christ. It is also referred to as the bride of Christ. Each member belongs to all the others; it only works when we are all doing our part. Our purpose, our significance, our meaning is found there. Committing to go to church in a house, but not church at the building with a large auditorium is contradicting. The only difference is in my friend's mind. The truth is--whether he accepts and admits it or not--he can't stay locked up with his "holy huddle" that is community group and ignore the rest of the body of Christ because he doesn't like it. I can only imagine that something must have happened to really destroy the institution in his mind.
I'm here in Little Rock because of my church. I would have left a long time ago to pursue other career options if it hadn't been clear to me that God has purposed me to this body for this time. I find my greatest joy serving there. The Bible says we are to celebrate together in our triumphs and support each other in our troubles and trials. This is my family. Yes I have blood relatives whom I love very much. But in heaven, we are all going to be united in Christ as brothers and sisters.
Our pastor has often said that a Christian without a church is a contradiction. And I really do believe that. Not to Bible beat anyone, but Scripture is clear on this point. If a Christ-follower were to tell me they didn't believe in church, I would start with asking about their essential beliefs. I know the church does not always act according to God's design. But the character of God cannot be judged based on the flawed character of people. Even if they are our brothers and sisters. We're all forgiven and we need to remember that, even when it's especially hard. (Particularly in dealing with people who hold on to so-called traditions for tradition's sake. What a turn off that is when we are called to meet people where they are. Only through relationship building will we earn credibility to love that person toward God. That's another "sermon" though. LOL)
In my mind, why let the memories spoil the chances of experiencing God's best? "Pew fillers" are not any better. The church doesn't owe us anything. We are called to take part in God's work, and God uses the church to do that work. Worship, discipleship, ministry, fellowship, and evangelism. That's why we're here. So why don't we become active and make the church what it SHOULD be? We have a choice: to be bitter or get better. For the sake of loving God and loving others, I hope we will always choose the latter.