It’s not uncommon for a pastor to hear someone say, “I love my relationship with Jesus, but I don’t want to have anything to do with the church.” People who say such things often have been let down by the church; worse still, some have been hurt by the church. It is a bitter truth that American churches are notorious for embodying the sardonic phrase, “We shoot our wounded!”
And yet Scripture is clear: you simply cannot have the Head of the church (Jesus) without being a member of His body (the church). When you understand what the church is—a collection of great sinners who are in desperate need of an even greater Savior—it becomes easy to comprehend how and why the church can hurt you and let you down. When broken people engage with other broken people, relationships frequently fracture and fall apart. However, staying away from the church because of those broken people who disappoint us is simply another way that our self-righteous hearts are exposed for what they truly are.
Please note that this does not apply to those who are physically unable to engage in the community of the church for a variety of reasons, such as age or illness. I am speaking to those who intentionally forsake the body of Christ.
When Jesus saved you, He made you part of His body (the church). He intends for you to grow up in the context of community, not in isolation. He knows there are broken people in His body who will cause you discouragement and even pain, but He is using all those experiences to draw you nearer to the cross and encourage you to depend more and more on Him.
The secular culture places the interests, desires, dreams, and goals of the individual over and above the community. It’s all about independence, and even many of those who have trusted in Christ’s atoning work want to keep their independence and minimize their commitment to—and contact with—the church. They live the “Jesus and Me” Christianity model and as a result, grow into only a fraction of the person God is calling them to be.
It is only when we see our relationship with Jesus in the context of community that we will surrender our independence to both the Head of the church and His body. Because we are going to be a part of the body of Christ for all eternity, it is an excellent idea to grow comfortable with it now by getting deeply involved in the church. Jesus and we is the only way for us to be.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!