Recently, a well known Christian author announced that he no longer attends church because he claims he does not connect with God through songs and rarely learns from listening to a lecture. If that was all the church was about, I suppose many would follow his example and abandon the weekly gathering.
However, church is more than a one hour production highlighted by song and sermon. Church is a perpetual gathering of people who, together, are becoming the people of God and while hymns and homilies are still very important to me and others, church involves a huge scope of Divine activity.
- We help prepare couples for marriage.
- We meet with married couples who are struggling to stay married.
- We perform official duties at weddings.
- We help families plan the funerals for their loved ones.
- We speak and lead at funeral services.
- We equip leaders to go plant churches around the globe.
- We send teams to help missionaries around the globe, especially in times of crisis.
- We help take care of the poor in our city, especially the widows and orphans.
- We baptize and disciple new believers.
- We celebrate the Eucharist together.
- We pray for the sick and visit them at their homes and in the hospital.
- We prepare meals and help those who are going through a crisis.
- We help people who are struggling financially.
- We gather and pray for each other.
- We support families who have adopted children.
“We” is a synonym for the entire church body in the above list. While a handful of these activities are overseen by the clergy, most are not. I suppose some of these could be done alone or with a few close friends, but after two decades of following Jesus, I am still convinced that we are best when we gather often as a big messy family to serve Christ and others together.
This past Sunday, I counseled a young unmarried couple who want to follow Jesus, but are living together. I prayed with a single mom who has a struggling teenager, hugged a young widow who is still grieving the sudden loss of her military husband, encouraged a family who is returning to the local church after 20 years away, answered questions from a sad lady who was upset about a church decision and prayed for an elderly couple who are moving to retirement in another state.
I did not choose all of them for my community and they did not all choose me. Church is not just hanging out with our friends or the people we choose. We need people we have not yet met and people we have not met need us. Church chooses us.
Sure, it would be easier to isolate myself among a tribe of homogenous people, but church does not give us that luxury. Church gives us the privilege of loving people unlike ourselves.