I’ve a confession to make. Until this last year, I would have said that in many ways the local church has become obsolete.
As a Christian, there was always an awkward pause in the conversation when people would ask which church we went to and I would mumble something about being between churches or still looking or fellowshipping at home or some other noncommittal answer that basically meant we weren’t going anywhere.
Christians are supposed to go to church, but I wasn’t really sure why.
What could I get out of a Sunday morning that I couldn’t get out of a podcast or a worship cd? Why bother with all that when I have Christian friends I talk to or a Bible study I’m involved with?
If it’s for fellowship, I get more of that with my close friends than during that weird post church service time when everyone chit chats with their white styrofoam cup of cheap coffee and smiles and plays nice and talks Christianise God language like bless you and you’ve been on my heart, and praise Jesus when really you’ve been struggling in your faith for months and you didn’t hear a word of what the preacher said because you were too tired from staying up late watching reruns of Gilmore Girls.
And you wonder, “Has church become obsolete?” Is it really necessary?
I wouldn’t have come right out and said it but my answer would have been “No, it’s not essential.” I would have walked a wide circle around the question. Waxing poetic about community and accountability and fellowship and how we need to learn to dig into the word and feed ourselves. I would have sworn that I can be a good Christian and love God without loving church.
I would have said that we don’t need to go to church, we are the church. And most of it would have been wrong.
Every once in a while we committed to a church for a few months to a year and during those times I would answer with our church’s name and add a qualifying statement, “That’s where God has us for now.” Meaning until something better came along or until this church let us down or until we decided we were bored or burned out and we moved on.
In our 14 years of marriage, we have been absent from church far more than we’ve been in one. Each of them had their own unique problems and some of them were very valid. And valid problems are one of the greatest reasons why people don’t go to church.
One church had a strong biblical emphasis but no missions focus at all. It was a tiny enclosed Christian club and it’s members were dying off and spiritually dry. Our walk with God was nothing more than lip service on Sunday. Our lives were a mess.
One church was strong biblically, had a gifted pastor, strong community and missions focus. During our time at this church, we committed at a level we never had before and it was a great time of spiritual growth for our family. God’s word was preached and we saw repentance and revival in our spiritual walk, especially in our marriage.
Until the discovery that the lead pastor was having an affair with a young married woman in the church. Like I said, valid problem.
We had been a part of his home group and it was devastating. The effects of this made us reluctant to join a new church. Within a year, the church fell apart completely and many of our close relationships ceased to exist as people fell away from the Lord or moved on to worship at other churches.
The next few years was a series of casual relationships with the church. We went to one church for a while and developed some deep friendships and the fellowship found there was a joy to us but the word of God wasn’t strongly emphasized and we saw that while we had community, it lacked authority. There wasn’t a strong love for God’s word and the discipleship process wasn’t happening in people’s lives because in many ways there lacked truth. We had ceased to grow.
And so we pulled out. We tried a few home meetings with other like-minded Christians but each had its own set of problems and finally we quit altogether.
Do we really need church, especially when they all seem so inadequate?
I’ve found that the answer is “yes.”
And in the next 31 days I invite you to discuss your journey as I share mine. How I got to this place and why? I don’t have all the answers and I don’t claim to, but this is what God is doing in my life, in my heart, and in my church.