You Don’t Have to go to Church to be a Christian

But it sure helps!
From time to time I hear people talk about their faith and spirituality. ‘I am a Christian, but I don’t go to church. I don’t believe in organised religion.’
I must confess there are times when I sympathise with them! Whilst Jesus preached a Gospel of love, the church has practised something quite different. I was watching a programme about the Crusades the other day, a shocking example of violence and hatred carried out in the name of Christ. Think of the long running dispute in Northern Ireland. Think of the rows carried out in public regarding the role of women and sexuality.  The organised church also runs the danger of turning the freedom that Jesus came to give us into a set of rules and traditions. Ghandi famously chose against Christianity not because of its beliefs, but because of the church’s example. To be brutally honest, it can be quite dull!
The same arguments, however, can be turned back onto those who reject organised religion; the trouble of sin is that we are all affected by it – but, if we are no better than those who don’t go to church, then doesn’t that prove that it’s all a fabrication? This misses the point. As Paul points out in Romans, we are all unrighteous, but this explains why God had to send his Son, so that he could live the righteous life that we couldn’t, so that through him our relationship with God could be restored.
So why gather as the church? The easiest answer is that Jesus told us to. He always envisaged that we would live and operate as a community. Together we can support each other and achieve so much more. Together we can hold each other to account and find encouragement. Together we can learn more about God, and be more Godlike – after all God himself is a community. The Christian speaker and author Brian D. McLaren talks of the five queries that his spiritual formation group ponder together; “How is your soul? How have you seen God at work in and through your life since we last met? What are you struggling with? What are you grateful for? What God-given dream are you nurturing?” I suspect that if we had the courage to ask each other these questions, then we would find the power of the church. Maybe then we could gradually learn to become more like him.
Church Newsletter article for Sunday 24th October 2010
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