My friend Grammatteus, the writer at The Alternative Ulsterman, and I have been having a conversation about churches. The question is, as Christians, are we obligated to belong to a church?
The most oft quoted scripture the devout church-goers offer to me is Hebrews 10:25.
“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching…” (NIV)
I live with Rebekkah, a fellow Christian, plus I have friends I hang out with who are also, fellow Christians. In my opinion, I am already obeying this scripture without having to find myself a group of people in a brick building.
As for references to the body of Christ. My only statement is, I haven’t met too many congregations out there that should be referring to themselves this way. We Christians, dead, living or yet to be born, despite country, nationality, ethniticity, gender, or otherwise, together form the body of Christ. Not just the church members. That includes the black sheep rebels who are having a hard time sitting in congregations under people who don’t seem as committed to the Lord as they are. So, Romans 12:5 and most of 1 Corinthians 12 are covered by that distinction.
What no one really mentions, to me anyways, is that the main reason belonging to a group of devoted Christian groups is actually beneficial is accountability. Some people….nay, most people….conduct themselves better when they know people are watching. Along with encouragement, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and a plethera of other nourishing gifts, the desire to not let others down or at the very least, not be embarrassed, really does tend to help people avoid some pittfalls.
Now, the accountablility factor requires trust, and here is where I get into all kinds of problems. First of all, I am not too fazed by disapproval of anyone in general. I do the best I can, or I don’t, but I own my crap. If my crap is offensive to someone, that is their right to feel that way. That’s about where all that line ends for me. I’m not a people-pleaser. My self-esteem is unexpectedly robust considering all the wounds it should have suffered all along the way. I am not at all a fearful person. In a way, I feel inoculated against caring about other people’s approval. ….Except my kids. Forever, I’ve tried to live a life that my kids wouldn’t be completely appalled by, and to do something that I know they would completely abhor is just against the grain of who I am. So, me joining a church for accountability would have ZERO effect on me. My accountability factor lives in a room about 8 feet from mine, and she has no filter on that little mouth. And, in an interesting twist of fate, both of my daughters are pretty much the same way as me. We didn’t have too many peer pressure problems when they were in high school that didn’t involve MY kids peer-pressuring the OTHER kids.
Second, trust is not my strong suite. Just ask anyone. I trust some of my family, a couple of friends, and Jesus. That’s about it. And each of those are varying in range. In order for me to belong to a congregation, they would have to give me enough time to feel satisfied they aren’t wrong-motivateded, twisting the Word, greedy, deceitful, or any number of other common issues going on in church leadership these days. In the end, though, I don’t fit in to most of these little social groups. I don’t care to discuss ad nauseum enumeration of sins, or whether or not the manifestation of tongues can be used to determine one’s true salvation. I don’t want to take tests designed to locate my gifts of the Spirit, or talk about how one goes about becoming saved. I basically drop out from sheer boredom after a month or so at best. I love praise & worship, so I can be coaxed into staying for that. But the sermons ….well, they kind of suck.
I probably didn’t answer the question for everyone, but for me, I keep my mind open to meet real Christians in my everyday life, and I am looking casually for a church I don’t hate going to. I like worshiping the Lord with music, and that is where I’ve started these days. But as for feeling like I’m sinning when I don’t go to church, no. Like the 10% tithe crap that was taken out of context and then shoved in every face between here and the Sun, people have to decide for themselves which group of Christians they need to be around, and why.
I guess people wouldn’t even have this heated argument if greedy church leadership hadn’t made such a spectacle of the tithing thing to the point that the advocation to give generously is longer than the actual sermon!!!
That’s my opinion, anyways.