“I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of truth” (1 Timothy 3:14-16 ESV).
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:23-25 ESV).
Recently, Donald Miller, author of the book Blue Like Jazz, stirred up a kind of social media firestorm among Christians with his blog post entitled, “Why I Don’t Go to Church Very Often.” This post was actually a follow up to another one entitled, “I Don’t Worship God by Singing.” In his first post, Miller wrote:
“I’ve a confession. I don’t connect with God by singing to Him. Not at all… It’s just that I don’t experience that intimacy in a traditional worship service. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of sermons I actually remember. So to be brutally honest, I don’t learn much about God hearing a sermon and I don’t connect with him by singing songs to him… So, do I attend church? Not often, to be honest. Like I said, it’s not how I learn.”
It’s not my purpose in this blog to respond to all that Miller had to say. There are responses aplenty already out there. Besides, he offered a kind of apology in his second blog (Not taking back any of what he said, but asking forgiveness for any offense his readers may have felt. – A very postmodern apology, by the way. i.e. “I really don’t think I said anything wrong, but I’m sorry that you feel I did.”).
What I want to address is those who either say, “I love Jesus, but I don’t love the church.” Or, as in Miller’s case, “I love following Jesus, but do I have to hang out and sing with His disciples?” (Notice the question mark. Postmoderns prefer questions over answers.).
In the case of those who say they love Jesus but not the church, they offer a critique of the church from the outside looking in. They are contrasting their view of Jesus with what they see in the modern church. I think we should take note of these criticisms and address them where appropriate. Some have validity. But we have a saying at our church, “If you don’t help row the boat, you don’t get to help steer the boat.” In other words, if you really want to influence the church, join it, support it from the inside. Be part of the solution by being part of the body of Christ.
In the case of those who want to follow Jesus, but don’t get anything out of spending time with His disciples, I don’t really hear a criticism of the church as much as I hear an excuse. Can you imagine the apostle Peter saying to Jesus, “I really want to follow you, but do I have to hang out with Judas over there? He’s so greedy and self-righteous. And that other Simon guy, he’s such a political zealot, always spouting off about overthrowing the government. Can’t I just follow You without traveling with them? I love listening to you Jesus, but I don’t get anything out of being with these 12 guys!”
Yet, the church is more than a place that meets an individual’s needs. It’s a people, a body of believers that exist to “stir up one another to love and good works,” and to be a worshiping, serving, giving, growing, and evangelizing community representing Christ on planet earth.
In truth, Miller’s blog rings of a kind of spiritual elitism. In his second blog he said, “…most of the influential Christian leaders I know (who are not pastors) do not attend church.” Later, he described church as a kind of school that you graduate from. As if, he and other spiritual elites have grown too mature for the elementary things of the church.
Full disclosure: I’m a pastor. And I support the local church. Not because I have to or because I get paid to, but because I think it’s the most powerful, influential force in the world. Sure, it is sometimes messy and chaotic. I don’t always like the worship music or the sermons (And I’m the one preaching!). But I love the church. And I’m concerned about the believer who sees the church as a place they can “neglect” as is the “habit of some.”
I don’t go to a church service to be served. I go to serve. And in the process of my participation, as I let the grace of God flow through me to others, my own needs are met.
I support the church.