As I sit here, snowed in on once again on a Sunday morning, I ponder the many Facebook status updates of friends, little passing comments heard in conversations over the years, and the general zeitgeist of people in America. It seems like a lot of people are following Jesus and are done with church. It's kind of a growing trend. It's almost hip to follow Jesus yet not go to church.
If you're considering that route, I hope to encourage you to not turn your back on the church. If you have already chosen that route, I hope you would reconsider.
Being "done with church" won't bring Jesus to our world. The reason is because Jesus chose for the church to be the vessel through which His work would be done in this world after He ascended into heaven. To make this theological concept brief, Jesus came to establish the church. Up until Jesus, the kingdom of God was the nation of Israel. Through Jesus, the kingdom transitioned from being people who were identified by an ethnicity and border to being a people of all ethnicities, nationalities, and locales.
There is something to be said about community. Community isn't easy, though. I understand that. It takes work. Oftentimes, we just think that work isn't worth the effort, that the frustrations caused by the idiots around us just isn't worth enduring for the value that community brings.
In community, we grow. We are stretched and fed by the thoughts and actions of others. True, sometimes we are offered drivel that we just want to reject. But if we refuse to be arrogant and honestly look back at our lives, our personal growth came through the challenges of others. Removing ourselves from community removes ourselves from a great potential of growth. We stagnate outside of community.
In community, we serve. A healthy church provides a variety of service opportunities inside and springing out from the church. True, you can choose to not be part of a church and use the ministries of the church. They will gladly let you serve through them, using them as a buffet where you can just pick and choose the service opportunities that you like. However, we are called to something greater than that. We are called to create opportunities to serve. We are continually challenged to serve in community.
In community, we have to work with others and work through our disagreements. This is actually a positive thing. As we work together, we grow together. As we grow together, we become one. As George S. Patton said, "If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking." Of course, there will be disagreements and headaches. But we need to change our perspective and view them as a good thing. Together, we meld into something better, through our disagreements, than we would be if we were left alone.
In community, there is permanence. It provides a place for people to connect with other like-minded people. It provides a lasting group of people in a locale that will be there long after we are gone, whether that is from our moving or our death. The time invested in creating and being a group of people is a lasting investment.
In community, movements happen. Movements don't happen from individuals. When we look at history, we like to imagine the great leader doing great things. But if you look closely at any great leader, you will see a group of people making the vision that they share with the leader happen. The leader that we recognize just becomes the face of the movement. The true movement is all of the people who are working toward the same goal that the leader is working toward. Movements don't happen when we choose to be done assembling in community with others. Gathering together is necessary for movements to change this world.
I'll be honest. There have been many times that I have wanted to be done with church too. People are often a frustration. I have a low tolerance threshold for things that I consider stupid. Drama is ridiculous. I don't like people making big deals out of little things. The mission of the church sometimes gets muddled. The passion gets polluted. And Jesus gets lost. Or, more likely, just ignored because Jesus doesn't get lost. He's in the finding business.
Instead of being "done with church", I would love for you to be involved in creating a better local church. Assemble likeminded people together and start a church. You don't even have to call it "church" if that is a taboo word. Instead, call it a gathering or whatever you want. Church at its essence is just a group of people in relationship with one another while being in relationship with God through the grace of Jesus. The world desperately needs followers of Jesus gathering together to make an impact on their communities, regions, and around the globe.
If you want to grow, serve, and be part of a movement that will be greater after you are gone, then you must church. It's easy to attack and leave the church you don't like; it's much harder to listen to God and be involved in creating something beautiful. Don't choose the easy route. Don't be done with church. Be the church. The world needs it. You need it.
One last note. If you don't think the community of believers that you are part of helps you grow, serve, and create a movement that will last after you are going, try to nudge that one in that direction. Make sure that you are being guided by God and not your own personal opinions. Ask yourself what you can do to make the change you want happen. Avoid asking what others need to do to make it happen. And if you feel that the cause is hopeless in your current community of believers, find a community of believers that will work with you to make that happen. Don't give up on church. Create or find that church. And be the church your heart feels the world needs.