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.
Good thoughts. Thanks and I love you
You might also consider how we define church. Is it “where two or three are gathered together” or is it in a worship service. Maybe we can be more plugged in and never actually enter the building.
No, it’s both, man, it’s both. Never actually entering the building would be like claiming to be a part of the family but never coming home for dinner. That meal time together — sharing the story, singing the story, eating the story — with the Body is critical in a jillion different ways.
Paragraphs 3, 4, 5, and 7 define “Church.”
This view of church as spiritual gym is a by-product of our culture. There are two problems standing in the way of people changing their attitudes towards church.
The first is people’s perception of “church” in our western culture. It’s seen as “something I do” in a long list of other things, rather than “something that defines me”. I know that this was my biggest problem. Changing this one thing reshaped me as Christian. What was once a burden to make it to Sunday evening worship became a joy. It was like night and day.
The second is how evangelical Christianity has changed the center-focus of the Gospel to “getting saved” and going to heaven rather than tikkun olam (Hebrew for “repairing the world”). Stop worrying so much about going to Heaven – Jesus has already taken care of that. Start worrying about how broken the world is and FIX IT.
If these two things are rebooted in people’s minds, I think you’ll have a radically new Christianity.
Think of it as going to a different building and a smaller body – like 10 people and 2500 sq ft instead of 800 people and who knows how many sq ft.
What’s wrong with that?
I’m not sure size has much to do with it. We all know that there are some things huge churches can do better than small churches and there are great benefits to small churches that we lose in bigger churches. In any case, I do believe there is tremendous benefit in being connected to a diverse Body of believers — different ages, different backgrounds, different world views, different mindsets, different socio-economic circumstances, different styles — united by the common salvation we share in Christ Jesus.