A few weeks ago I spoke with someone who had stopped attending church. I asked him where he had been going and he replied, “I don’t go to church anymore. I’m in a different place now.”
I recall the story of a man who woke up on Sunday morning, not wanting to attend worship as was his usual custom. He called his mother and said, “I’ve had enough! I can’t go to church anymore. Those people are so rude, and they don’t even like me.” His mom responded, But son, you have to go. You’re the pastor!”
The church is an attractive thought for many of us, but it can also be a difficult one for those who have had bad experiences. Some people have gone through “church abuse” which can make it difficult for a return to any house of worship. Others have simply grown apathetic but seem to make the annual Easter Sunday service, only to return to their lives away from the church.
Christians aren’t supposed to live in isolation from each other. We are supposed to live in community and experience life as a family of faith. In an essay written about 15 years after his conversion, C.S. Lewis commented on the value of community:
“I thought I could do it on my own, by retiring to my rooms and reading theology, and I wouldn’t go to the churches. . . But as I went on I saw the great merit of it. I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit just began peeling off. I realized that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with such devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren’t fit to clean those boots. It gets you out of your solitary conceit.”
To be honest, I don’t remember a lot of sermons that I heard while sitting in the pews. What I do remember, however, are the people who have impacted my life through the years. That’s what church is really about–it’s about the people. It’s about going through life together with a group of people who are unified in their devotion to Christ.
The early church was described as “being together and having all things in common.” It is also known as “koinonea.” The CEV says it this way: “they were like family to each other.”
It’s important to realize the difference between “attending” a worship service and “belonging” to a church. It has to do with what Dietrich Bonhoeffer described as “Life Together.” I hope to touch on that subject Sunday morning when we’re together once again. I’m grateful we’ll be able to share the Lord’s Supper and commission our students to “Serve Springfield.”
I also wanted to congratulate you on your generosity to missions. UHBC was recognized as a “Top 200 Giving Church” in the latest edition of the CBF magazine Fellowship! Let’s keep up the good work!