Church is not a Four Letter Word
A while back I was talking to someone who, after hearing that I was a pastor said, “I am a Christian too, but I don’t go to church.” Now, I have heard this many times in the last six years of being a pastor because for some reason, people feel the need to tell me whether or not they go to church and in most cases, why. What struck me about this particular conversation was that this person appeared to have a sense of pride because they didn’t go to church.
My reaction to this was not anger, but sadness. In my last 20 years of being a Christian I have struggled with church and my faith and I totally understand why people are apprehensive about attending their local church. Trust me on this one, there are some bad Christian churches out there and not one congregation can claim that they are the perfect representation and embodiment of God on earth and His love for all people. But to try and separate God from the Church that He gathers, forgives and feeds is absolute foolishness and will only turn a person looking for God inward where there is no assurance or true forgiveness for their sins.
If we want to know about God and His nature, i.e. whether He is a good, loving God or a vengeful, wrathful God, than there is really only one place to go. Yes we can observe His creative hands in nature and appreciate the majesty of His works as the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 1:20. But there is only one way to know God so well, that we can call Him “dad.” When the disciple Phillip asks Jesus to see God so that all of the disciples might have some assurance that everything Jesus is saying is true, Jesus replies, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.” John 14:9b,10
We know what God is like because we know what Jesus is like. Jesus and God are one in the same. Jesus was comforting His disciples with a reassurance that He is not only from God, but “the words I say to you,” the message and work that Jesus brings, is God’s as well. If you want to know God, than you need to hear the Word and receive the works of Jesus (baptism and communion) so that faith may be planted and grown within your hearts and minds. It is this faith which relies and trusts in the promises of God and through it we become His beloved children by the life, death of Jesus Christ which pays the penalty of our sin and His resurrection which delivers us to God the Father.
Jesus has a conversation with a Samaritan woman who was not allowed to worship in the Jerusalem Temple because she was not considered “clean.” Their conversation did not take place in a worship setting, but at a well in the middle of the day. This woman knows that she was not considered “good enough” by the Jewish standards to worship where God was and Jesus reveals to this woman a revolutionary concept. “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23,24 I have heard some people use these same verses to point out that Jesus here is giving them His blessing to skip church and go play golf. To these people I reply, “worship in Spirit and truth.”
Only those who have the Holy Spirit active in their hearts and minds can know the truth of what Jesus’ presence here in the world means for the sick and broken. Jesus didn’t come for those who don’t recognize their need for a Savior, but for the people who have been broken by the trials and tribulations of a sinful world. If you think there is nothing wrong with you or the world we live in, than Jesus (and God) are not for you. But for those who need the assurance of God’s presence in their lives, who need to hear the actual spoken words of God’s forgiveness, who need to learn more about what Jesus has done for their sake, who need to be with others in the same situation, who need to physically see God’s word working through simple water, bread and wine to breathe life into our lives, than our church is for you.
In His Glad Service,
Pastor Brandon Merrick