Thursday, May 28, 2015

Church: A matter of life or death?


“…not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as ye see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25
In the time we live, it is imperative that we continue to draw strength from one another, sharpening one another, and encouraging one another to be all that we can be in the Kingdom of God. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but in the past decade or so, there has been a growing movement for believers to end their relationship with the organized church, finding alternatives to “assembling together.”
With my own perspective about church life, I may have one reason why church attendance by passionate believers has declined. From the pulpit, I’ve heard pastors make such proclamations as, “The church you choose is a matter of life or death!” I believed this whole-heartedly until I didn’t believe it at all.
Our main nutrition should be our intimate, daily relationship with the Lord. We should be growing and building ourselves up in our most holy faith. The organized church should be like a vitamin supplement. It adds to our diet, but without it, we shouldn’t starve. It feeds us that extra meal that boosts our metabolism and fuels the fire we’ve already gotten started in our passionate pursuit of God on our own.
However, if we assume that our organized church attendance is our main meal, we are going to be left hungry on several counts. First, most of us attend once or twice a week. What if we only ate one or two meals a week? Enough said.
Secondly, church is run and attended by humans. With that being stated, many things can happen in the company of a group of people.

·         The pastor may retire, and a new pastor may replace him whose vision is different from your own.

·         The vision of the ministry may change and not be in line with yours.

·         Your vision may change and not be in line with the vision of that organization.

·         The pastor or leaders may begin to lead the congregation in ways you are not in agreement with.

·         The pastor may make grievous errors that directly affect you and your family.

·         There may be serious hurt between you and another congregant, and it is not handled well by the leadership.

·         The church may move to a new location that makes it more difficult for you to attend.

These are only a few of the many things that might occur to the place that you’ve determined is “life or death” to your spiritual walk.  What then would this mean to you and your family? Your main source of sustenance would be lost or broken, and you may determine, like so many already have, to quit attending church altogether. To make a building and a gathering of people our all-in-all is a great error on our part, and we are often taught from the pulpit that this is essential to our health and well-being. While attending church may be important, it is much more important to develop our relationship with God outside of the building.
With hindsight being 20/20, I encourage you to enjoy your church and church family. Get involved and help when and where you can. However, make sure that it is a good, healthy addition to your daily intake of time with God and his word. Never, ever make church and church going your main meal for the entire week! God deserves more of you than a short, obligatory weekly visit!

5 comments:

  1. Kathy, I enjoyed your blog piece but I couldn't disagree with you more -- but then, my perspective is no longer evangelical, but reformed. Please know I mean no disrespect. Had I remained an evangelical, I would have felt exactly the way you described (and I actually did for a few years while an evangelical).

    But after transitioning into the Reformed faith, where rich doctrine is taught much more deeply and solidly, I would have to say that what God gives to His children on the Lord's Day (His day - a day set apart), is the food we need desperately. Only then we are able to exist the other 6 days in both service and in our own meditation. But we are not to do this apart from a true church. There are reasons.

    By leaving it all up to "us" -- the safeguards God put into place (church leadership, etc -- to protect sound doctrine, etc) -- does not exist. We risk allowing idolatry (of many things, including "self") to taint our spiritual lives. I think, in America, we see this frequently - the worship of self. Our independent spirit focuses on "us" rather than what God requires of us.

    I'll put a couple of articles here for you to peruse on this topic. The first one is one of my favorites -- love Dr. Godfrey: http://www.the-highway.com/worship_Godfrey.html

    Here's the other. http://wscal.edu/resour.../resource/a-day-belonging-to-jesus

    It would take way too long to explain all of the details of the concept of the Lord's Day in scripture, but Hebrews is right. The Church is God's beloved. We are His covenant people. It is important to see the Church in the context of covenant or this topic will never be understood (which is why I use Covenant Theology as my hermeneutic rather than Dispensationalism). God is a covenantal God and has covenanted with "a people."

    As I mentioned, it is important that a true church exists. (Accurate preaching of the Bible, proper administration of the Sacraments and careful Church Discipline). And that's the problem -- too many churches today are failing in what God requires of us. I think this is why so many Christians are discouraged today, esp. in Evangelicalism. Satan would love nothing more than to pull God's people away from the Church one by one.

    Thus, the Lord's Day should absolutely be our main meal of the week, understanding that a true church is present. We were never meant to be "lone wolf" Christians. We are a people of God -- we are his beloved people -- and out of grace and mercy, he provided the Church for us.

    I don't this sentence is phrased right: "“The church you choose is a matter of life or death!” This is not the way to view the church. It has to do with resting in the presence of the Father, using the means He gave to us. (The Church) If I could only tell you the freedom I have experienced since leaving the evangelical church for the reformed church. Freedom has meant I actually go to church 2x on Sunday smile emoticon. We begin and end the Lord's Day with Him. If this were functioning well in the Evangelical Church, you would not be feeling the way you are today. You would leap at the chance to go to Church every Lord's Day, because the meal we get is life itself.

    "Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire." Hebrews 12

    Here's another short one that might be helpful. http://www.opc.org/new_horizons/NH02/04e.html

    Anyway, thank you for letting me express these thoughts. I know they are not mainstream thoughts. But I remember those days of searching. Now that I am much older, God has given me answers to the longings of my heart in my younger days. I am grateful to God -- not to anything I have done -- for I could not have understood anything unless He first opened my eyes to see it. Take care. KB

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  2. Having read thoroughly what both you Kathy's have written...I AGREE! With both of you! I feel there is a more of a breaking into rather than a breaking away from the "true" essence of the church...the beloved...the bride...the heart love of God! I know as for me, Iam done with the entertainment, worshiptainment, and show quality of what has begun to be the new norm in the gatherings across the country on any given Sunday. Being called to be a worshipper, a singer from the house of Judah...I struggle with the me me I I element that now exists on the stages. And yes they have now become stages rather than platforms...neither of which I've been fond of anyway. From one who grew up with an everyday church mentality..where .nothing didn't revolve around the church, including how to dress, what to eat and drink, what entertainment you could participate in, what classes you could take in school, who could be your friends, who you could date, what "worldly" items you could have in your home, i.e. a tv....And the list goes on, I get the legalism thing..and the desire to sprint away from it as quickly as possible. It was like being in freedom that had concrete poured over it.. the freedom got all set up and immovable, making it no longer free. Free but not free. What a dichotomy. I really wanted the structure but also the freedom, so I ended up in a charismatic Episcopal Church. I loved it...complete with the prayer books and kneeling benches. But then a move took place and I ended up becoming a worship leader at non-denominational chuch, leaning towards Baptist theology. It was OK and the people were wonderful, but there was still the freedom issue I longed for. Over time, I began noticing the trend of the churches who were made up of the celebrity pastors and "them, and us"....and once again the dissatisfaction and emptiness was there. I too realized that I couldn't change things not in my sphere of control, but I COULD change the one thing I had control over and that was ME! I sought the face of God and began to see the empty places getting filled with him and him alone. The longing of my heart was being fulfilled. I truly believe that the first and most important responsibility I have with God, is TO GOD! Unless I am a functioning, obedient, healthy member of His body....what I have to offer someone else is going to be coming out of weakness and perhaps even sickness. I have accountability with precious Christian friends today, more so than I ever had in the organized gathering. There is genuine concern and awareness of and for one another, without the fear of not having what you may feel needs to be said to someone, being rejected or misunderstood. But then I love the formality of the high church with all the pageantry. Perhaps becuase I'm a child of the King and its in my genes to love pomp and circumstance! smile emoticon So there is a melding of the two schools of thought and they can actually live together. Both can be good....both can be bad.....but together they can be balanced. I submit this as yet another way to look at things. I've learned that anyone convinced against their will is unconvinced still! SS

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    1. I enjoyed reading your thoughts. And relate! Everyone's experience w/church is so different. But that is God's grace on your life that he's led you to contentment in the melding of the two schools of thought you mentioned. I used to lead worship too, on teams for 18 years. I still worship all the time. Now it's more between me and my King. Or I'll send someone a song I wrote, via my phone recording app./text because it's more personal from God to me to them. Sometimes I wonder if that reaches people more deeply than all those years of worship leading did. Anyway, like you, I'm living in that balanced place, choosing not to take offense, or make non issues - issues. God you lead and I'll try to listen and follow you!

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  3. Great subject and I'm in agreement also. The bible makes it clear that the head of the church is Jesus Christ Col 1:17-18 17. So the church can be my home with my family and Jesus being the head of that body, the church. There's no death for me if I don't attend a church. Jesus said, "I AM the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6), it's not a place. WM

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  4. Im a little late to the conversation, but I definitely nod my head to ya on this topic. For me & my husband, your bullet point #3 applies. Since around November of '15. But w/hearts being slowly prepared for different ways of belief (from our church) since '09. Thing is, they aren't "salvation" issues. They're lots of lots of various life and kingdom on the earth kind of issues like a one time salvation prayer and your ticket's punched... tithing...membership... everyone bow your head and raise your hand if... everyone invite a friend to church because thats how people will see Jesus and get saved... once saved you're always saved... "I'm just a sinner"...
    These are just some things we've heard and used to believe or go along with, but no longer. We had a period where we're almost like, awakened to a whole
    New way of life and thinking about what the church was meant to be. And look like. And who it is, vs. WHAT. We struggled hard w/church for like a year. There was a lot of religion rooted in us, as pastor's kids...and we've been in a really healthy shedding process since 11/'14.
    Now we go regularly again, but with entirely new and different outlooks. We don't even go for ourselves anymore. I read that the Hebrews passage in context, was really talking to believers who had a burden of ministry to other believers - his statement was to them - so say, in essence, Guys! Don't stop meeting together w/other saints...THEY may be struggling in their faith. If you were given a responsibility to walk beside them as they work out their new salvation, you'd better not stop meeting together with them. To encourage, build up, dispel lies, speak truth, support. Don't bail on them. See, much of the organized church has taken this to mean don't stop going to a church building to meet with other believers once a week, every week.
    Kathy what you wrote about having a meal vs suppliments, I get. I agree. But we're at the point and I say this at the risk of sounding like we have it all together which I know full well we don't... to where we go now for others. He's told us many times in many ways, you read the Word, you worship, you listen to powerful podcasts, you read faith building challenging exhortations, on an almost daily basis... YOU are often filled so THAT you can pour out WHEREVER you go. And that includes your church lobby and class each Sunday. Look about. Follow my lead on who to talk / engage / pray with... you are well equipped child. You are my Church wherever you step foot.

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