I’ve heard people talk about church like they talk about the gym. They think about going to church like they think about going to the gym. You know, a person who regularly goes to a gym is more likely to stay in shape than a person who doesn’t. At the same time, though, you don’t absolutely have to go to the gym to stay in shape. There are other ways. So, the logic goes, you don’t have to go to church to be spiritual. You don’t have to be an active member of a church in order to have a right relationship with God. A lot of people think — some people even say out loud — that church is a nice addition to personal salvation, but certainly it’s not essential to that salvation.
As we say goodbye to 2009 and anticipate God’s gifts for us in 2010, we need to understand that his church is far too important to his purposes and his plan for the world he created to be thought of as some kind of optional, personal, spiritual gym. The Gospel has never, ever been just about saving individuals. The Gospel has always been about creating a community where walls are broken down and human beings are reconciled not only to God, but also to one another.
We are a people. A holy people. A saved people. A people brought together by God to serve his purposes and fulfill his mission in the world. The church as a people, as a community of faith, as a family of God, a family of brothers and sisters connected to one another by the blood of Christ, and actively engaging the world is critical to God’s eternal plans.
The New Testament Scriptures do not recognize a disciple of Christ who is not an active, involved, all-in member of a community of faith. One of the many facets of baptism is initiation into that Body of Christ, his Kingdom, made up of saved and sanctified people. There are no such things as pew-sitters or occasional attendees in the Bible. We are all holy brothers and sisters, made holy by the poured out blood of Jesus, called to live together before the world as an alternative community.
I know you’re going to lose weight in 2010. I know you’re going to give more and spend more quality time with your family in the New Year. I know. Why don’t you also commit to getting more plugged in to what God is doing with his Church? Why don’t you jump in with everything you have to realize all of what God has in store for you? Live up to your God-created and God-ordained potential. Live into everything God intends when he creates in you that brand new person, full of his Holy Spirit, made to experience everything in a brand new way! Show up everytime the doors are open. Give more of your money than you’ve ever given before. Get connected in a Small Group. Study and pray with your brothers and sisters. Join a ministry. Create a new ministry.
God’s Church is not anybody’s personal spiritual gym. You don’t just show up when you need a boost and plug in your ear buds and work out on your own. It’s the community — the family — in which God placed you when he saved you. It’s where he intends for you to live.