Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Do you need to attend church to be a Christian?

Yes.

Unless, of course, you are more holy than Jesus. Jesus attended synagogue and the Temple rituals 'customarily' (Luke 4.16), so if it was worth it for him, then it's worth it for us.

This is not to say that we are forced to attend a church that spiritually murders us, it is to say that we need to be a little stricter about discriminating between spiritual murder and spiritual inconvenience. It is not possible to get to heaven by giving in to our own desires so often especially when such desires are, frankly, incredibly shallow.

What is church? Church is where the gospel is rightly preached and the sacraments duly administered. And yes, in order to be a Christian, you need to have a regular sacramental life. You need to be baptised, you need to share the bread and wine with your brothers and sisters in the name of Jesus.

Church is the gathering of believers for the particular purpose of renewing and refreshing their faith, which is accomplished by centreing our attention upon God and offering up to him the very best of ourselves, acknowledging that we are merely returning his original investment in us.

Christianity is not a solitary and private act. It is public and corporate. Fellowship is not an optional extra, it is constitutive. You cannot learn to love your enemies unless you take time to get to know them first.

Jesus had synagogue and the Temple. I'm coming to see house-groups (or equivalent) as the former, and Sunday morning as the latter. So many of the arguments and controversies we struggle with would be eased if we didn't try to make the Temple into the synagogue, or vice versa.

Being a Christian is not the same as being saved. It is not for us to put boundaries around the grace of God. But joining in with other people on the pilgrimage and path of faith, this is not an optional extra, this is of the very essence of the faith.

4 comments:

  1. There's no individualism in the Bible; it hadn't been invented then anyway. In the OT, salvation is about being part of Israel, or at least part of the righteous remnant thereof. In the NT, it's about being part of the New Israel. One of our problems is that protestants have tended to react against the RC's so much they've thrown out their ecclesiology, and gone way overboard reducing everything to individuals.

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  2. Sometimes though someone can be so badly hurt by church "Christians" that s/he is unable or unwilling to try again. Having been in that place myself for a while I'd ask you please not to underestimate the damage church can do. Even now, although I'm a Licensed Reader, I am very careful not to invest too much of myself in church life - I won't allow myself to be spiritually abused again.

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  3. attend no, belong yes. Turning up at a meeting doesn't equate to being part of the community of disciples.

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