You’ve probably heard people say: ‘You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.’ The statement is, of course, partly true. The act of going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you a car. But behind this statement is a question about obligation. Should those claiming to be Christians go to church?
There are good churches that are faithful to the consistent principles of Scripture, and there are bad churches that aren’t. Please go to a good one. Go to one that will teach truth and which will encourage you to do things as a team that you couldn’t do on your own. Go to a church in which you can use your gifts to do the things that Jesus is calling you to do.
The question: “should I go to church?” is fundamentally a theologically flawed one. The church is not a building or a place. The church is people… people who seek to make Jesus the leader of their life. Church is who you are when you are part of Jesus’ community. The American-Canadian theologian, Gorden Fee, writes: ‘God is not just saving individuals and preparing them for heaven; rather, he is creating a people among whom he can live and who in their life together will reproduce God’s life and character.’
If you are a Christian, your priority is no longer yourself; it is Jesus and his agenda. So, if you think you are a Christian because you believe in God and have good morals… you will, of course, feel perfectly free to play golf on Sundays instead of going to church. The problem with this, is that “belief” and “morality” are not what makes a Christian – although, of course, it is part of the deal. Being a Christian is about putting your faith in Jesus’ death on your behalf, and making him the leader of your life.
So, the right question is: Does Jesus want you to be in community with other Christians; to meet with them regularly to be encouraged, to encourage others, to use your abilities in ministry, and to do things together that you couldn’t do on your own?
And the answer is “yes.”
You may feel you can worship God better on a nature walk rather than go to a church service. But that is not church. That is worship… and it’s different. Doing church is doing community. Doing church means embracing the oddness and idiosyncrasies of each other. Being church challenges our predisposition to deify ourselves, our opinions and our preferences. It’s about “otherness.” As church, we acknowledge God, worship God, submit to God, and minster to his glory – together.
And we had better get used to “community,” because the whole reason God created the universe was so that he could expand the orbit of his love to include as many people as possible. God’s future kingdom will be his community – and we, the church, get to prefigure it.
From this it follows that, rightly speaking, there is no such thing as a Catholic church, or an Anglican church or a Methodist church. There is only one church, and…
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