Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Why We Love The Church

Another book from the guys who wrote Why We're Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be).

A conversation I had last year gave me added desire to read this book.  It wasn't the first conversation I'd had with a Christian who'd decided they didn't need to go to church.  It saddened me.  Don't get me wrong, I do get where they're coming from.  I too have felt disillusioned with the church in the past, but seven years earlier I had learnt a powerful lesson that while my church might be imperfect, so am I.  Yet, despite the church being a collective of broken, odd and dysfunctional people, God is making it into something beautiful.  The church is Christ's bride.

The person I was chatting to said they were disgruntled about 'judgemental Christians' in the church.  I understand that.  We're always going to encounter people with differing opinions who don't express themselves very eloquently.  What disturbed me was this person had decided to stop being a part of a church and rely on random spiritual encounters - rather than going to a church service or home church, Bible study, whatever...they were relying on God to send other Christians their way to offer them a word of encouragement etc.  I tried to gently tell them that while God may well bless and encourage them through bumping into Christians randomly, He also wants us to not give up meeting together and that usually requires some planning.

Last year I also read that well-known Christian Guy Sebastian was feeling disillusioned with the church.  He said that while he still 'believes in God', he is moving away towards a view based more on life, discovery and research.  I fear that his comments and influence may lead more young people to give up on the church.

Does going to church make you a Christian?

Should Christians go to church?
Yes...if you can get to a church, you should be meeting with other Christians.  We weren't designed to go it alone.  It's hard enough to be a Christian, let alone trying to do it on our own.

'Church' is a body of Christians meeting together.  That could be in a recognised church building, a community centre, a cafĂ©, a park, a home...whatever.  But there is nothing in the Bible that supports a 'churchless faith'.

In this great book, DeYoung and Kluck go in to bat for the organised church.  They realise that the church gets a bad rap from both Christians and non-Christians alike and that instead of focusing on its warts, we need to see the church as God sees it - a beautiful bride that will be presented to Jesus when He returns.  Why We Love The Church covers some of the same ground as Why We're Not Emergent in that they rebut arguments that the church is failing in the areas of social justice, or that services are too organised and need to be more 'Spirit-led'.  They take turns in writing chapters again, but while it worked well with Why We're Not Emergent, this time the order of the chapters feels a bit more all over the place and some of the chapter titles are a bit too quirky (they made me wonder what on earth that chapter was going to be about).

But it's a great book.

Some of the criticisms of the organised church (and their comebacks) are:
  • The church is not growing.  Young people are not staying on after high school.  The church is not making an impact in the community.  The church doesn't care about social justice.  The church has lost sight of its mission.
    Church membership may not be growing, but the population has also increased so it looks less in percentage.  It's tempting to 'fix' the church because it isn't growing.  It's easy to assume that churches should be growing and that there's something wrong with churches who aren't.  But Jesus said that the gate is narrow that leads to life.  There is no biblical teaching to indicate church size is a measure of success.  Yes, there are churches who are closed, small and proud of it, but that doesn't mean all mega churches should be deemed 'successful'.  To say the church is not involved in the community denies the small acts of service that faithful Christians do in their communities year after year.
  • The church is hypocritical, anti-gay, anti-women, judgemental, legalistic, oppressive.  It has an image problem.  It has hurt me personally.  Sunday services are a drag.
    Sometimes it feels like we're the odd bods in our churches (e.g. everyone homeschools when our kids go to a public school).  The 'meet and greet' or 'turn to the person next to you' thing that many churches do on a Sunday is corny.  Some people have been hurt by bad churches, but sometimes they're also part of the problem.
  • We need to get back to first century 'church'.  Church has turned into services, sermons, pastors, buildings when it should be about kingdom-building, sharing possessions and meeting in homes.
    Why is a service considered more 'Spirit-led' if it was organised on Sunday morning instead of Tuesday night (or not organised at all)?  Letting anyone get up and say something during church sounds great in theory, but not everyone will get up and say something that is God-centred, true and brief.  The early church met in homes because their faith was illegal, not because it was cool.
I've just paraphrased snippets of the book.  There's a lot more.

DeYoung and Kluck aren't wanting to sweep all criticism of the church under the carpet.  They acknowledge that churches and church leaders have caused great hurt.  The church does need to change in some areas.

But it's easy to take a swing at something with a bat and not do anything to help bring about change.  There is still so much that's beautiful about the church.  It's so imperfect, yet God is at work in His people.  I don't know where I'd be if it wasn't for the love, care and biblical encouragement from the people at our local church this year.

Would you like someone taking potshots at your wife?  No, that's how Jesus feels when His bride is lambasted by those inside or outside the church.

This book made me fall in love with my church again.  It's ideal for disgruntled Christians considering walking away from church, or for new Christians who are asking, "Do I really HAVE to go to church?"

1 comment:

Deb said...

Sounds like a good read. I once said to a friend (and this might be the most out-there statement I've ever written on the net) that not going to church is a lot like pre-marital sex.

And what I mean by that rather bizarre statement, is that everyone always has a good reason why the Bible's teaching on the matter (going to church or sex) doesn't quite apply to them.

"We are engaged anyway." "People don't understand our relationship." "I don't think God judges us by whether we have a piece of paper or not but by our hearts." "That's just legalism." And so on and so on. Same with not going to church - lots of "good" reasons why church going is not "right" for them: "I've been so badly hurt in the past" "I don't need to go to church to worship God" "That's just legalism" and on and on. I understand that there can be real pain and big issues behind these statements. But at the end of the day, the Scripture is pretty clear about church and our excuses are, well, just excuses. And, of course, church is meant for our good (just not always in the way we think it should be good).