It has become increasingly common for me to meet someone who professes to follow Christ, but who has no interest in being a part of a local Christian community (i.e. a church). Perhaps even more common are the number who profess Christ AND profess interest in a local church, but rarely attend on Sunday morning.
The reasons for this, no doubt, are many and varied. And I suspect that the cool spiritual temperature of the local church has contributed much to these patterns. The local church, rather than presenting as an irresistible community, has often presented as a hugely resistible community, focused on secondary things.
As a pastor, I note the constant temptation to focus on secondary matters, and how easily a group of people can become resistible. These two things go together. Focusing on things not prioritized by Christ causes a group to become more resistible.
Thankfully, the converse is also true. Prioritizing what Christ prioritized causes a group to become increasingly irresistible.
To this end, I’m convinced that the first and best thing we can do is make a deeply personal CONNECTION to God through Jesus Christ. Without this, irresistibility will always elude us.
Having connected to God, the next step should come naturally to us: CONNECT to one another.
The New Testament employs the metaphor ‘the body’ to describe the Church. Our connection to Christ (‘the Head’) may be intensely personal, but our connection is not an independent one. Our connection to Jesus, as a ‘body part’, is a connection shared by other parts. The apostle Paul takes up this metaphor in 1Corinthians 12 to help correct some of the division which existed within the Church at Corinth. The point of the passage which stands out for me is this: We need each other. We have been designed by God to connect with Him as a group, and not merely as individuals.
Moreover, we have be equipped to do God’s will and to advance His kingdom in this world as a group, and not merely as individuals. I say this, in part, in defense of the local church. If we are lacking in some way, if our impact in the community has been modest, if our environment has been, in some senses, resistible it is because we are missing ‘parts’ of our body.
What I would describe as, ‘Lone Ranger Christianity’, is not edifying for the local gathering of Jesus followers, nor is it helpful for the follower who is attempting to grow in isolation from the rest of the body.
We are meant to be together. We need each other.
In spite of all the challenges facing the contemporary Church—challenges without, and challenges within—I am extremely hopeful about the future of the Christian Church. Individual congregations may suffer decline, and even close their doors, but the worldwide Church continues to grow (see Matthew 16:18). The reason for this is simple:
Jesus is for the Church.
And as much as I love the church, I’ll never love the church as much as Jesus does. He died for the Church (Acts 20:28)…which begs the question, ‘What are we willing to give in order to promote the growth of the Christian Church?’
On February 8, I delivered a message at St. Giles Kingsway and The Well entitled, ‘Connect to One Another’. This is the 2nd message within the series, ‘What Are We Aiming At?’. You can listen to the message here.