Scared into church or doing what He would do?

Something crossed my FB wall a few days ago that disturbed me…

Honestly, I should thank the person who posted this for forcing me to examine my views about church, why we go there, and what we should be expecting from our attendance.

#1. This post implies that “the local church” is the the only place where we can count on God’s protection.

  • Anyone who has attended any church for any length of time is well aware that church attendance is no guarantee of safety and protection against evil. Simply put, bad stuff happens to good church members (and to everybody else on the planet). To suggest that church attendance/membership is some kind of insurance policy against unpleasant things occurring in your life is faulty reasoning at best. At worst, it’s a kind of twisted manipulation of human emotions to get them to join your group.
  • If your church attendance is inspired by fear of what happens if you don’t show up on Sunday (or abstain from all labor on Saturday, or to pray certain prayers every day, or to give a specific amount in the offering, or whatever), then your faith is fear-based, not love-based, and needs to be examined. God isn’t trying to SCARE you into being part of the church, and the church leaders shouldn’t be, either. Just a thought.

#2. This post implies that anyone who is ‘outside’ the local church is somehow removed from God’s grace and mercy.

  • Really? What about “the goodness of God leads people to repentance?” Is that just talking about people who are already in the church? I don’t think so. Are we talking a SPECIFIC local church, or ANY local church? Are we addressing any denomination, or just the ones that agree with the author? You see, this is a problem. I was part of a denomination that eschewed the majority of other denominations as somehow faulty in their theology. When something crappy happened to someone who was part of a different (albeit Christ-honoring) denomination, I chalked it up to their failure to ascribe to our particular theology. When lousy things happened within our own body, we publicly prayed and confessed the Word, and privately wondered what secret sin or lapse of faith the victim was guilty of. The point? It’s not ours to judge or decide why things happen to believers OR to unbelievers. Stuff happens. God helps us deal with it, and as the body of Christ, we’re supposed to come together to help one another through the tough times… in the church and “out” of the church. Period.
  • Is church attendance an important part of the life of every believer in Christ? Absolutely. We are not to forsake the gathering together with other believers. But when we start pointing fingers at other gatherings, we have a problem… Is the Messianic Jewish house church as “under cover” as the flamboyant mega-church with the big building and the marketing campaign? Is the church repeating its weekly liturgies out of a book as “under cover” as the non-denominational church doing everything “as the Spirit leads”? Is random attendance as effective as weekly, or daily attendance? Do you have to sign your name on the membership line at a particular building to assure your protection? Where does one draw the line? Is there a line? 

I have a hard time believing in a God of love who would flick his beloved children out from under His protection based on their particular style and method of worship. That said, the question arises… if we don’t go to church out of fear for our safety and protection (which is a twisted reason for going, IMO), why should we go? What purpose does church serve?

I believe that the original purpose of the church (ecclesia = gathering) was to provide a community of support for like-minded people to come together to worship, and to provide a social support network of tangible, physical care. Unfortunately, that’s the part of “church” modern-day organized, corporate, 501c3 religion frequently fails at. Let’s face it, it’s a lot easier to spout platitudes and quote scriptures (and tell other people what they need to be saying and doing and thinking) than it is to wash their dishes, take them to a doctor’s appointment, watch their kids, or pay their past-due bills. It’s easier to promote building projects and evangelical campaigns than it is to sit down and deal with the schizophrenic chick who needs medical intervention more than she needs the laying on of hands. That stuff is messy, and we don’t like messy faith.

For myself, I’m going to make an effort to get my hands messy more often. Not because someone is scaring me into it, but because I believe that’s what the Lord would have me to do as a member of His body, His Church. I believe it’s what He would do if he were here in my place.

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