A Church Myth

A few weeks ago I was offered the opportunity to teach the adults at church tonight. My work schedule wouldn't allow us to until a few months ago, but we haven't taken the initiative to start attending. I figure I would force myself to go by taking up the opportunity to teach. I went last week and thoroughly enjoyed it. I wish we had been going longer.

Tonight I'm going to be teaching on a myth that many people have: Church doesn't matter; all that matters is my individual relationship with God.

Ala Leo Tolstoy, I am going to ask them three questions with some Scripture thrown in. My post today will be a mini-lesson of my lesson tonight. I can't pre-package it with all of the discussion I hope happens. If you feel I should add anything, take away something, or you know a great verse for one of the questions, just post a comment. I would love to have some input. Obviously, each question could be a lesson in itself, but I only have one night.

Question #1: What is the church?

We can easily cross some things off intellectually, but it seems like we have a much harder time in crossing them off in practice.

A few say that church is the building we go to on Sunday mornings.

Even more say church is about programs that they have to minister to all the people in it.

And even more would say that church is a place where I can come and be fed by a good preacher.

All these are wrong. Churches might have buildings, programs, or a preacher to preach, but that isn't what church is about.

What do we think church is about? We can figure that out by asking ourselves, "If I was to begin looking for a new church today, what would I look for?" The answers to that question truly exposes what we think church is about.

(1 Cor 12:12-27 NASB) "For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. {13} For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. {14} For the body is not one member, but many. {15} If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. {16} And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. {17} If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? {18} But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. {19} And if they were all one member, where would the body be? {20} But now there are many members, but one body. {21} And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." {22} On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; {23} and those members of the body, which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our unseemly members come to have more abundant seemliness, {24} whereas our seemly members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, {25} that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. {26} And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. {27} Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it."

The church is the body of Christ. It is a place of ministering to one another, a place of sharing one another's joys and sorrows, a place where what happens to one person in the body effects the whole body.

Questions #2: Why should we gather together as a church?

If I was an outsider looking in at what we practice as a church, what would I come up with as reasons the church gathers together? Again, our actions truly expose what we genuinely believe.

We value education the most. We have lessons during Sunday school, during our Sunday morning service, and on Wednesday nights. We value singing songs of praise. We value a little bit of prayer. We value giving money to the church. During Christmas we value gift wrapping for the community. We value getting together for fellowship once in a long while outside of our gatherings, but we don't value this one too much because most of the get-togethers have terrible turnout.

I'm going to use my time machine and get a glimpse of what the early church did. Remember, this is the church whose faith is responsible for us being here today.

(Acts 2:42-47 NASB) "And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. {43} And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. {44} And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; {45} and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. {46} And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, {47} praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved."

We see that they gathered together to share all things in common, to meet anyone's needs, to share meals, to learn together, to have fellowship, and to pray.

Question #3:

Is there anything we can change to make us a better church?

(This will be where we have a few minutes of ackward silence or really come up with some great ideas.)


People believe the myth (church doesn't matter; all that matters is my individual relationship with God) because most churches validate that statement by the way they live, or don't live, together.

The book The Open Church by James Rutz begins with this quote:

"If you've ever felt lonely and unimportant in church, there's a good reason: You are alone and unimportant. From 11 to 12 Sunday, you're just another pretty face in the crowd. Though surrounded by others, you're cut off. Custom wall you off in your own space and silences your voice - except for song or responsive reading. Surrounded by an audience of trainee mutes, you can find it lonely as a solo trek across Antarctica. After you've eaten all the sled dogs. The service would be exactly the same without you. You know that. Your impact on it is like an extra gallon of water going over Niagara falls."

Our churches have a choice. We can either be places that bring glory to God or places that bring Him shame.

One of my favorite passages in Scripture is the passage of God and the vineyards.

(Isa 5:1-7 NASB) "Let me sing now for my well-beloved A song of my beloved concerning His vineyard. My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill. {2} And He dug it all around, removed its stones, And planted it with the choicest vine. And He built a tower in the middle of it, And hewed out a wine vat in it; Then He expected it to produce good grapes, But it produced only worthless ones. {3} "And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, Judge between Me and My vineyard. {4} "What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones? {5} "So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard: I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed; I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground. {6} "And I will lay it waste; It will not be pruned or hoed, But briars and thorns will come up. I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it." {7} For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, And the men of Judah His delightful plant. Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; For righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress."

Just like he did for Israel, God is doing everything in his power to make His church what he intended for it to be. It's not His fault if people think the church is worthless; it's ours. We can sit around and be focused on our individual relationship with God, or we can impact our community and be the church God intends us to be.

Watch out for the potholes.