When people ask me “what Church do you go to?” I make a point of replying “I belong to Jordan Victory Church”. That might sound a bit pernickety but there’s a vast difference between attending and belonging to a church.
If we’re merely “church goers”, we’re in danger of developing a consumerism approach to the church.
I often hear people say things like:
* “I left my last Church because I just wasn’t being fed.”
* “My needs weren’t being met”
* “I didn’t like the way things were being run”
And they might have had some points; where there’s any group of people, things can get messy. But I wonder, did it ever occur to the disgruntled churchgoer to stay, commit, and be part of the solution?
WE DON’T GO TO CHURCH, WE ARE THE CHURCH
When you became a Christian, you became a part of the Body of Christ. You were born as a new creation and legally adopted by God into His family
Ephesians 1:5 “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”
Our God is a God of covenant. He doesn’t break covenant – ever. Your adoption is a legally binding contract in heaven.
I have my natural family name, that was granted to me automatically when I was born. No one can ever take that away from me.
In the same way, when I was re-born, in Christ, I was given the “family name”, ‘Christian’. I am part of the family of God.
No Christian is supposed to be a little island, on their own, doing their own thing. We’re designed to be connected; to belong.
Church was not a human Idea; It was birthed in the heart of God
TO BELONG TO MY CHURCH FAMILY MEANS:
* I share ownership. I have a legitimate place.
* I share responsibility, in the good times and bad/tough times
* I have a role.
* I share in the corporate vision and common purpose we have as a family. Rather than being a guest/visitor.
* I share a common “DNA” with my family members, through the blood of Jesus Christ, shed for us.
* I am known. I can be vulnerable and un-afraid
* I am accepted, valued and significant
How would I have any of these if I were merely attending?
The Ones Who Walk Away
I’ve been a Christian for forty years. Around 13 years ago, I was in that awful, lonely place where I had walked away from Church. For nearly three years I made all the excuses; “I have no problem with God, it’s just the church I have issues with”. I still met with Christian friends for coffee, and when they would invite me to church events I would come out with little pearls of ‘wisdom’ like: “What we’re doing right now is Church – we’re having fellowship, aren’t we?” But I was kidding myself! I was nursing my hurts and offences and really I was just a walking mess of unforgiveness.
If I’m disconnected from my church family – listening to podcasts of my favourite preacher or blasting out my favourite worship songs while I’m working doesn’t demonstrate that I’m still a passionate follower of Jesus. It just shows that I’ve become a much less effective, very lonely one.
Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
Disconnecting yourself from community is more detrimental to your relationship with God than connecting yourself to a flawed community. All churches are flawed because people are flawed.
We can’t have a proper relationship with Jesus when we’re out of relationship with His Church.
So can you be Christian and not go to church? The answer is both yes and no. Whether or not someone is a Christian is not determined by his or her church attendance. It is dependent upon his faith in Jesus Christ (John 14:6)
BUT THE BIBLE HAS NO TEACHING OF SOLO CHRISTIANITY:
The Christian life was never meant to be lived solo. God has gifted each member of his church to serve one another; it’s impossible to do that alone. To live a Christian life alone runs counter to everything The Bible teaches us.
If you are a Christian, then as we looked at earlier, you have been born into God’s family, His church.
“Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other” Romans 12:4-5
“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near” Hebrews 10:24-25
See also 1 Cor 12:12
How could we do any of this if we are not part of a church, or are just ‘attending’ one with no real commitment, belonging, and the weight of responsibility that belonging carries?
The New Testament is filled with descriptions of what the followers of Jesus did in the weeks following his resurrection. It gives us a model of how the experience of being part of a church, could and should be:
* They ate meals together
* They were hospitable and welcomed one another other into their homes
* They prayed and worshipped together
* Learned from their leaders
* They didn’t hold too tightly onto possessions- but shared what they had, so that the poor could be helped.
But were they perfect? Hardly! They were no different from you and I. And in fact life was so much harder for them. I’ve sometimes heard people say; “I wish we could be like the New Testament Church”. And I wonder why? The New Testament is not a story of an idealised church where everything worked perfectly all the time. Just read 1 Corinthians any time you’re feeling fed up with your church.
We are so richly blessed in our day and age! We have the Bible, translated into so many languages and versions. The New Testament Church didn’t even have the Bible, as we know it today. We have countless study tools at our fingertips to help us read, study and understand God’s Word. Those of us who live in the Western world have the freedom to worship God together without persecution. And we still have the freedom in many countries to share the gospel with others.
JESUS DELIGHTS IN HIS CHURCH
“God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Ephesians 3:10-11
Imperfect but Made Perfect Through Christ
The church is a community of believers; Community can be messy and painful. People sin. Even leaders sin.
Jesus started the church with imperfect people, and today, it is still filled with imperfect people, like you and I.
It’s only because of God’s incredible grace and mercy that He uses ordinary, broken human beings like us as vessels of his grace, to showcase his grace to a world in need of redemption.
There’s only one thing I would change about my church……Me!
But thankfully God is the one doing that work. We had a lecturer at Bible college who used to say, tongue-in-cheek cheek, “if you find the perfect church out there, please do not join it’ because it will no longer be perfect.”
How true this is. We are all a work in progress; imperfect but made righteous in God’s sight.
Will we get hurt in Church. The short answer is – Yes. But we are not given the option to go it alone. We are commanded to love one another. The Holy Spirit gives us the tools we need to work and do life together: Galatians 5:22-23
Jesus delights in His Church, His bride. His grace runs through your and my imperfect, but redeemed life.
If you are a Christian and don’t belong to a local church body, I urge you to find one and put down roots there. If you are merely attending a church, and have lost your sense of belonging, I would implore you to make every effort to reconnect to your church family. You BELONG!