Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I believe in God but...

I can't tell you how many times I have heard that phrase through the years. In fact I have been hearing it more and more of late. It usually takes shape in something like this...
"I believe in God, but I have needs."
"I believe in God, but I just don't go to church."
"I believe in God, but I am just real busy."
"I believe in God, but you just don't understand how hard it is."

What people keep saying is that "I believe in God, but I just don't want to do things His way."
I don't trust His ways
I don't like His ways
I don't want to give up my rights

I find this particularly takes form in the second "I believe but" phrase. I believe in God, but I just don't go to church. People have had many disappointing experiences in churches. Believe me I understand this!! I have heard many stories and even seen what I term "spiritual abuse" within God's house. As a pastor please allow me to apologize for the idiocy that is found in many churches. All I can tell you is that I have devoted myself to being a part of the solution rather than checking out of the game altogether as some have. You see even with the experience of poor leadership; even with experiencing the sin of those we are supposed to be able to rely upon, we are still commanded in numerous verses such as "do not forsake the assembling together of yourselves" to come together in worship and service. Some say "well I am still a Christian, I just don't go to church." "You don't have to go to church to be a Christian!" In fact you do. Here's my point: someone might still be saved and make it to Heaven without being a regular part of a local church. However, if you are going to claim the label of Christian, which means "follower of Christ," then you absolutely do have to be plugged into a church somewhere. It has been the case for 2000 years despite the many errors and abuses that the Church (the universal Body of Christ as expressed in local assemblies) has been the vehicle through which God has moved and extended His Kingdom. We were made for community. God Himself has invited us into community with Himself and calls us into community with others that follow Him.

How does "church" meet this created need?
  • Church is a place of corporate worship where we gather together with all different types of people on the common ground of the cross to worship Jesus
Christianity has never been about the individual, but rather about connecting the individual in community. First with God and then with others. God's intent is for all of creation to be restored. As people gather in worship it is an expression of what is to come and a testimony to those who do not yet know Him. We need each other in this journey of faith. We cannot do it alone! If you were the devil and wanted to destroy a Christian or at least make them totally irrelevant wouldn't you try to isolate them and separate them from all sources of strength and encouragement?

  • Church is a place where we cannot create community in our image, but we are connected with other people utterly unlike ourselves yet we share the common foundation of being redeemed in Christ.
You know those churches where people all look, dress, vote, talk and act the same? They are like a big boring scoop of vanilla. No sprinkles, no syrup, no different flavors. Some say that is a picture of unity...I see it as a picture simply of uniformity. God's creation is diverse and wonderful. God loves Republicans and Democrats. God loves the wealthy and the poor. God loves the socially adept and the socially inept. "Red and yellow, black and white they are precious in His sight..." Though that is an incredibly non-politically correct way of saying things today, (and by the way...where's the "brown?") the point is still valid. If Jesus is for everyone, why don't our churches reflect that? Certainly if left to our own devices we gravitate toward those most like us, but are we challenged through that? God connects us with others that cause us to be stretched and as a result it makes more room for Him within us.

  • Church is a place where we can connect with others in mission to accomplish more for God and His Kingdom than we could separately. I need to elaborate here? Just think Foreign and Domestic missions. How are you "going into all the world" by sitting on your butt on the couch on Sundays watching Joel Osteen feeling good about how God loves you? What about ministry in the community? What about being a witness in the community? What about engaging the culture around you through the ministries of the church that your faithful tithes and offerings provide?

Bottom line... you cannot claim to be really close with Jesus and in touch with God's call on your life and not be connected at a local church in a significant way.

And by the way, that whole "I believe in God" bit... So does the Devil. How is your faith different from his? Take your life to the next level and join obedience to your belief!