It was rather perfect timing when Steve invited me to write a guest post for Creekside. Burk and I are just getting settled in Lebanon. We found a church, but due to the craziness of summer (camping trips, weekends visiting family, a 10k race this Sunday), we haven’t gone consistently, so having to meditate on the importance of the church reminded me of my responsibility in seeking to get to know people, something I desperately needed. We felt so at home at Creekside, so starting over with a new church family with the additions of a 4-month-old and a medical-student-schedule has been tough, but that makes it even more imperative that we be involved, because, life is a little crazy right now, and we need the church.
The church is crucial to Christian life; contrary to popular American belief, our salvation isn’t about us as independent selves, Christians are corporate, and we need one another in order to walk in a manner worthy of our calling. We need the church.
I need the church. Here’s why:
It is arrogant for me to think I can understand the multi-faceted nature of God alone. Yes, my personal time spent with God is important, and yes, God does reveal himself in nature and the quiet secluded hours of the morning; but there is a reason people like Jack London and Ernest Hemingway drank themselves to death; they went searching for God alone, and that is a certain way to find emptiness and incomplete answers. God IS love, that just can’t be understood in solitude. I need others so we can love one another as God first loved us. The way we love one another in the church will impact how we love the world, and if we do it well, it will show them who God is, if we do it poorly they will call us hypocrites (and rightly so).
I don’t have all the answers (surprising, I know). I need the instruction of elders, I need to be taught what I don’t understand, or what I miss because my sin blinds me. Pastors spend their time pouring over scripture to flesh out the intended meaning, I need their insight and wisdom. I need them to remind me what is true as I’m accosted with lies all week long. I need them to remind me why it is that I live: to glorify God.
In turn, pastors need me, they need my support, my encouragement, my understanding and my prayer. I need the support of the body of Christ, when I am in need (like those first two weeks of James’ life when the thought of simple tasks like cooking macaroni and cheese made me cry, and we were blessed to have meals brought over by various families from church). When I see others in need I must be their support. We are to bear one another’s burdens. We can only do this if we know what those burdens are, we can only know them by being intimately involved in the lives of one another. We are Christ’s body, a body is connected, it won’t work well if it isn’t. As difficult and awkward as it can be, I have to reach out and spend time getting to know others, and allow them to know me, otherwise I’m just showing up to an event on Sunday, and that’s not church. I like to put this responsibility on the established church, but it is my responsibility to seek out other people and to allow myself to be known; while some churches may facilitate this better than others, regardless, I need to step in and connect.
Those people I need to get to know? They’re not just my peers, or friends. The church is a family, it is made up of ages 0-99, men and women, artists and engineers, the poor and the wealthy, and every ethnicity. I need to get to know ALL of them, not just young women who share my interests.
I need the wisdom of women who have already walked my stage of life, or those walking it now with different perspective. I need the insight of those older and younger. From those who are single, those who are married one week, or 50 years, and I need to share my insights with them.
I need to see what child-like faith is, from a child. I need to see the little boy singing all the wrong words, completely off-tune with all his heart because he’s just filled with the joy of knowing his sins have been paid for.
The church is made up of people. This may seem obvious, but my attitude toward church seems to imply this isn’t the case. The church is made up of people (it’s worth saying twice). People are sinners, as a result the church will not be perfect, people fail. There will be gossip, there will be cliques, there will be wrong thinking, there will be hurt feelings; in short, there will be need for forgiveness. I will make mistakes that hurt others, and others will make mistakes that hurt me, those are not reasons to leave, they are proof of our need for grace and humility; humility to admit our wrongs and grace to forgive one another in our imperfection; because that’s what God has already done. Love covers a multitude of sins, that love comes from Christ, and we are able to forgive one another because he has forgiven us.
8. A Holy Nation
We need to stop thinking about church as this place that we go to be filled, and then go out in our week; yes, that is part of teaching and corporate worship, but only part; there is more to church than our own needs, and just the one day spent doing “church”. We are a holy nation. We, the universal Church, are the new Israel. God chose to make the nation of Israel to stand as a pillar before the world, to show himself and what he was doing, and ultimately to birth the Christ. When Christ came, died, and rose, we became what Israel was; we, the church, represent God to the world. Our identity, both individually and corporately is in Christ. We are his body, made up of hands, eyes, ears and hearts, and God has called us out of death and into life, together. Daily, not just Sunday. I need to stop thinking so independently, and remember God called a people, not just me.