Tag Archives: Church

The Danger in Talking About Why We Should be Involved in a Church

In Desiring the Kingdom, James K.A. Smith argues that too often we come at an understanding of the church from a consumerist mentality. We are shaped by the shopping mall, and that in turn affects how we approach church and the Christian life. That is:

“I go to church because it fits what I need.”

“I go to church to feel this…”

“I go to church to receive that…”

“I go to this church for this ministry, and this church for that ministry…”

“I go to church because it’s all about me.”

“I don’t need to go to church, I can just listen to a podcast of xyz mega pastor.”

Too often our arguments for why someone should go to church don’t counter this, but instead feed it. Take for example this recent list of 10 Reasons to Be Involved in a Church. The author, David Roach, is writing to those who used to go to church but don’t anymore. He exhorts them to give church a second chance, and then offers his reasons why:

If you’re among these millions, please give church another chance.  By getting involved, you’ll discover that what you once viewed as a chore is actually a blessing. Here are 10 reasons why:

1. Gathering with a church encourages believers to love others and do good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25).

2. A church is the main venue for using your spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:1-31). God has given you abilities and talents intended to help other Christians. If you’re not involved in a church, others are being deprived of what you have to offer.

3. A church helps keep you from abandoning the faith. According to the author of Hebrews, the antidote to developing an “unbelieving heart” that leads you “to fall away from the living God” is to “exhort one another” (Hebrews 3:12-13)—an activity that occurs most prominently in the church.

4. A church helps you defend Christianity against those who attack it. When Jude told the early Christians to “contend for the faith” (Jude 3), he directed his instruction toward a group of believers, not a scattering of lone-ranger Christians. Answering challenges from coworkers, friends, and family members is always easier when you can ask fellow church members for help and wisdom.

5. A church is a great venue for pooling resources to support missions and benevolent works (2 Corinthians 8:1-7; 3 John 5-8). Your money combined with that of fellow church members can do a lot for Christ.

6. A church helps its members maintain correct doctrine (1 Timothy 3:15). You might begin to adopt unbiblical ideas without realizing it yourself. But you probably won’t adopt unbiblical ideas without someone at your church realizing it, and they can help you get back to the truth.

7. After your family, a church is the best group of people to meet your physical needs in an emergency (1 John 3:16-17; 1 Timothy 5:3-16).

8. A church supports you when you face persecution (Acts 4:23-31; 12:12-17). You may not be imprisoned for your Christian beliefs like the apostles were, but a church family is still a great source of comfort when you face stinging words or unfair treatment.

9. A church is where you can be baptized and take part in the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 28:18-20; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34; Ephesians 4:4-6). These two ordinances are a vital part of any believer’s walk with Jesus.

10. A church provides the setting for corporate worship (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Though it’s a blessing to praise God alone, there is a unique joy that accompanies singing God’s praises with an entire congregation of Christ followers.

The list, as presented by Roach, starts with the individual, and makes them the consumer. It’s all about “me” and anything external to “me” is secondary. This list is a perfect example of the consumer mentality that is overtaking North American Christianity.

Are there benefits to being involved in a church? Absolutely. But these benefits should be secondary to the real reason we go to church. We go to church because we are the church. We go to church because God, through Christ, has called a body of believers and not a group of individual Christians. We go to church even when, and precisely because, it’s not all about us. It’s about Jesus, who laid down his life and calls us to lay down our lives (and desires, and possessions, and feelings) for the sake of the Gospel.

Unfortunately, the way this list reads, if I replaced the word “church” with “community group” or “parachurch organization” or “group of Christians meeting weekly at the pub” the same benefits would still apply to most of the list. This list is more accurately “10 reasons to be connected with other Christians” and not necessarily specific to the church.

(And that’s not even taking into account the justifications Roach that gives for each of the reasons, which are either very superficial theology or in some cases really really bad theology. While Roach does provide proof-texts, some of the proof-texts actually betray his very own explanations.)

 

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Pastoral Advice: Helping a Young Family

“We’ve been going to this church for a year, and we really like it,” said the husband. “The service is great, the people are great.”

“There’s just one small problem,” said the wife, “and we don’t know what to do about it.”

“This church has a small Sunday school for kids 3 and older. For kids under three there is no nursery (it’s not just that they don’t have a staffed nursery, they don’t have a physical nursery space at all). There is a cry room at the back of the church, that is 8-by-8 and doubles as a staging and storing area for all the Sunday morning supplies for the service (communion elements, candle sticks etc). It’s a tiny makeshift space that is designed for short visits. For the last year, one of us has been in the cry room every Sunday with our oldest child who is too young for Sunday school, and too active to sit through the service.” The husband explained.

“And usually that someone was me,” smiled the wife. “What makes it worse is that part of the staging area has a sink, and the cupboard under the sink has cleaning supplies; the cupboard doesn’t have a lock on it, so guess where the little kids like to go get into mischief?”

“Our oldest child is just turned two, so it’s one more year in the cry room. And we’ve just had our second child, so by the time the oldest is ready for Sunday School, the younger will be no longer at the ‘sleep through the service stage’ and will need to be in the cry room.”

“So we’re looking at three more years of one of us being in the cry room for the majority of the service; and longer if we decide to have more kids!” Said the wife.

“And as soon as there is more than one or two kids in the cry room, it gets awfully crowded. It’s such a tiny space. Yes, they do pipe the service in over a speaker in the cry room, but over the noise of the toddlers it’s really hard to hear and follow along.”

The wife’s smile faded, “You know, by the time we get ourselves to church, and one of us settles into the cry room, it feels like it would have been easier to just stay home. Pull up a video of a sermon on the internet, throw in a worship CD and do church at home. What’s the point of going to church if I just end up sitting in the cry room every week?”

“We don’t want to have a consumer, church-shopping mentality, really we don’t,” said the husband, “but is it time to start looking for another church, one that has more child-friendly options?

*****

Okay Cheese-Wearers, what advice would you give this young family?

Pentecost Sunday

“…the effectiveness of the church is due not to human competency or programming but to the power of God at work. The church rides the wind of God’s Spirit like a hawk endlessly and effortlessly circling and gliding in the summer sky. It ever pauses to wait for impulses of power to carry it forward to the nations.” Clark Pinnock, Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit, pg 114.

“…The church lives in the post-Pentecost era. The waiting is over! The Spirit is come! Rather than praying for the Spirit’s coming, our task is to ‘walk in the Spirit,’ that is, to appropriate the Spirit’s dynamic.” Stanley Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, pg 371.