Many see being involved in the life of the church unnecessary. Many see getting deeply involved in a biblical-community (another way of referring “church”) in a consistent and ongoing relational way, as unnecessary. I have listened as well as reflected on my own journey, and found that there are many reasons for this.
For some it is optional. If it is optional it will require no adjustment to daily or weekly priorities. Being “too busy” is often a result of putting more effort into certain areas of life over others. It comes down to how one discerns between what is viewed as urgent and what is viewed as important. It’s just what we do. For example, making money is important to paying bills, so you dedicate time to work. Finishing class assignments are necessary to graduating so you set aside time. Hanging out with friends is important, so you make time for that. And on and on. Yes, for some living life in consistent biblical-community is merely an option. Who has time for small groups, extra bible studies, prayer gatherings, social event with other christians, or serving food to those who are homeless?
Some see biblical-community as unnecessary due to their negative experiences. Perhaps they feel as though it is filled with hypocritical and judgmental people. I must confess that I’ve felt that way and have been a part of the problem of hypocrisy often found in the church. However I realized that my lack of following Jesus or willful choice to treat others in ungodly way, still doesn’t change what the bible says about Christ-followers living life together. I also realized that these Christ-followers aren’t Christ. They are merely followers. I also realized that they needed a Savior too because they were messed up like the rest of us, which was clearly evident by the behavior. I also realized that I was no better than them and was being what I accused them of: a judgmental hypocrite. Ouch! But it was true. Finally, I realized that it shouldn’t be a question of will I be involved in this mess folks called church, but which mess will jump into. In other words, biblical community, meaningful community that seeks to establish Christ-centered, love giving and receiving, authentic relationships, can be hard and often messy. After all, we are hard and messy people. Should we be that surprised?
The Spirit of GOD is longing to change the sloppy reality of biblical community. Perhaps if we would each take Christ’s teaching seriously as well as the rest of the Bible, biblical community (or church) wouldn’t be quite as sloppy, the judgmentalism would remain in check, and we would love one another too much to allow room for hypocrisy to take root. And I would say that many of us are faithfully pursuing this way of life. Many are learning how to cooperate with GOD’s work and desire within us. It just seems as though the ones who are not often employ the best marketing tactics and become the loudest, most visual representatives of biblical-community. But none of these realities change what GOD has said or biblical-community should look like, and neither does it appear optional for His children. The church with all of her bumps and bruises, is still His “Bride.”
As I see it, the church exists for two primary reasons (which this particular post will not unpack in a detailed way. That will come in later posts.):
1. We were not created to pursue a life that loves GOD, loves people and follows Jesus, alone. There is no doubt that authentic community is hard work and often sloppy. All relationships are. But please don’t be surprised when the church if full of messed up and often sinful people. We need Jesus too. That is why we believe in Him, trust Him and follow Him. And we have chosen to do this together, for better or for worse.
2. We do not exist for ourselves, but for GOD and for the sake of His world in order to carry out His mission of loving and saving all people; the church does not exist merely for the church’s sake. If we really understood this, many of us would try hard to let go of our consumer-mentality towards the church. We would look less for the church to meet our needs and start seeking to meet the needs of others. (Think about what would happen in the church if we all set out to serve one another as Christ has called us to do. Everyone would be served!) The church exists to put skin on GOD’s love as we point with our words and lives the eternal love and salvation found in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are to call out with our words and lives for all to repent and believe, because the Kingdom of GOD (the rule, righteousness, and love of GOD) has been made available to all in Jesus Christ (Mark 1:15). We are to cry out to a sinful and fallen world in tears to “come back to GOD!” (2 Corinthians 5:16-21).
Finally, I realize that for those who don’t follow Jesus the church seems irrelevant. But this one may be easier to change than we think. Maybe if we as Christ-followers would see that doing life together as the church is necessary, those outside would think differently. If all of us would really get in on GOD’s mission of salvation, reconciliation and dealing-out hope to a hurting and broken world, maybe those outside of the church would see Jesus and His church in a much more accurate way: the loving and relevant body of Jesus Christ that is made up of imperfect hope-filled people of authentic faith.