What does the church mean to you? What role does it play? What does it mean to be religious?
Church in our culture has really been considered the center of the Christian faith. One may ask you, do you go to church? You may say yes, and they may take on the notion that you are religious. You may say no and they may assume, you are not. Church has taken the hierarchy of many Christians in Western culture. But was it intended to be?
To be religious means much more than putting on a suit and tie and heading off to church on Sundays. It means more than your day of baptism or your first communion. To be religious is like this according to the Bible:
James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
There isn’t much written in this passage about pure and faultless religion about attending church every Sunday and observing special religious holidays. These things are NOT bad things, however, they are not at the core of what true religion is intended to be. Religion is more about the point of Christianity...Love. Service. Sacrifice. Church is a beautiful thing. A church service is a really great way to express your faith and share in God’s Word together with your family of Believers. Go to church...period...even if your meeting with your brothers and sisters looks different than the traditional church. The Bible says not for forsake the gathering of the saints, so don’t. But church isn’t intended to be the end game of religion. It is a supplement. Religion begins the moment you open your eyes and ceases the moment you close them. Everyday. Sundays are a really refreshing way to allow others to hold you up and for you to be someone’s shoulder.
Usually when someone says I am religious, I cringe in the very pit of my stomach, because I have always hated religion. I was basted in it growing up and from what I saw, I had had enough. So I walked away. Ran really. I hated it because unknowingly I was experiencing the rot of the Biblical church. I was witnessing church becoming the idol that people worshipped while rolling around in money. I witnessed the evil one perverting what should be a thriving meeting place for His followers who have been working their hands to the bone for God all week long. Church for me was more about building funds, little tin plates being shaken under your nose, and the endless battle to stay awake through the very long and predictable service. I believe Jesus would have run from those churches too.
The church should be alive with the power of the Holy Spirit, whom God said was to our advantage being sent in His place. The Spirit of God being more advantageous for our faith than Jesus himself dwelling in flesh here. I never saw a church that showed any real evidence of being alive until now. Not that my church is the THE church or something to be revered, but I think that service to those around us is the point and in that, our mission is focused. We may meet in a high school and may NEVER get a building, but I think that’s just fine with God. Maybe, we need to keep working our hands to the bone. Maybe this is what God wants from us, not to get comfortable in a building and subsequently comfortable in our faith. Comfort in our faith, I believe, is the enemies most effective attack on the church. When we are comfortable, nothing happens, which is exactly what the one in the red suit wants.
We should look different. We should upset people. We were meant to be attractive and exciting to the world around us. We weren’t meant to have to soup up the Gospel of Jesus to get people to listen. Getting the people to listen and understand is the job of the Holy Spirit alone. This is not our lot to cast or load to bear. Our lot is obedience. We cannot compete with popular culture and why would we ever want to. Why would the church want to cover a Lady Gaga song to get people into the seats or excited about what God is doing in our lives? We have the Holy Spirit of God among us. We have the most unique attraction the world has ever seen dwelling right in our midst when we gather together in His name. We have God Himself.
What is the point?
“Think not that I came to send peace on the earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law” Matthew 10:34-35
If you are living the life that follows Christ, you are going to make people mad. Jesus did. John the Baptist did. All of the disciples did. You will too. We are called to be loving, but do not make the mistake of fooling yourself into believe that means you need to be timid and silent about what you have witnessed Christ do. This is a mistake. God gives us a bold spirit, not one of fear. People reject Christ and will reject you, however, people are looking for a Savior in a crippled world and the way they see it is in the light that shines in those that are vessels of God. Many will be drawn to Christ through our Christ driven lifestyle.
Buying all of the aesthetics and furnishings for your building made of bricks, tar, and mortar may draw people to it’s seats, but it will never lead a person into a deeply committed religion. This is the job of The Holy Spirit. The aesthetics can very easily serve as a distraction to what God is really doing by making the church service a spectacle. Religion may or may not ever happen there.
Thanks for reading...Z