It's been awhile since the last posting. In order to ease back into the groove I am just going to write whatever comes to my mind. I have no preconceived notions of where this will go so buckle up.
OK, I'll start here. I was preparing for Tuesday's care group this afternoon and came across the following sentence..."Your loyalty is not to a church or a movement, but to Jesus Christ." I liked that. Obviously, I like it because of my struggles with Mt. Calvary but I think I would like it even if I found a church community in which I was completely fulfilled on every level. Why do so many people think it is so important to go to church? I think for so many it's just about GOING to church and has very little to do with actually DOING stuff while they are there.
Throughout the ages, church has been God's primary way of reaching the lost, so in that sense, church is a very important place to go. But we also know there are many other ways to reach the lost that a church can never replicate because there are many people who refuse to ever set foot in a church. So if you are out pursuing other avenues in which to reach the unsaved and share your faith then church becomes much less important from that standpoint.
The other primary arguments for church are spiritual growth and community. A 20 minute sermon on Sunday morning will only offer so much spiritual growth. Attending a Bible Class is hopefully a good supplement to that. But then we are still only talking about a little over an hour a week if you are doing nothing else. So, you better be doing something else...for a lot more than another hour. Now some churches actually allow their pastors to preach as much as the Spirit leads instead of limiting their words to fit an hour time period. I think those places offer a much richer opportunity for growth. I'll take 50 minutes of Piper over 20 minutes of my Pastor anyday. That isn't a knock on my Pastor - he just isn't given a chance to elaborate and teach in ways that he probably wants. It's a downfall of our culture. We just like to package things in easy to swallow increments - even something as important as God's Word.
So, let's say that 80% of my spiritual teaching comes from outside of my church in a given week. Suddenly church is a supplement to my growth instead of the core. That doesn't mean the supplement isn't important...it's just not the MOST important. Then that brings us to community. I actually think this is the biggest argument for going to church. Even though I have Christian friends and family and lead a men's Bible Study, I still have times where I feel isolated in my faith amongst a world and nation that so clearly hates anything of God. Community reminds us that there are many of us in this battle together...although that presupposes that your community knows it's in a battle. If your community isn't in the arena, actively engaged in the fight, then you are probably better off without it because they will desensitize you to the urgency that you should have when it comes to reaching others and living out an authentic faith. So, community, in and of iteself, isn't enough. We need a community that is God-fearing, Biblical, restorative and passionate about the Great Commission. Easy to find? Nope.
Honestly I am even hesitant to look at this point. I just really don't want to bother with it and I don't even feel that bad about feeling that way. I've kinda gotten stuck with my battle at Mt. Calvary, where I have many friends and some aspects of a solid community. But I also have a Pastor there who doesn't seem too keen on me coming back and performing ministry. I also have reservations about fighting the same battles there that I fought years ago. In my reading for Tuesday, the author also told a story about running into a couple that he had gone to church with 10 years ago. He was shocked at how they were still using the same language, stuck on the same issues, as they were when he went to church with them. He had moved on to new battles in his life, had grown in his faith and become deeper spiritually. I have a fear that the wrong community will ultimately stunt my growth and 10 years from now I will still be complaining about how we can't give firstfruit offerings to our missions (which, by the way, we still aren't doing even though we claim we now understand that Mt. Calvary is God's ministry and not ours...I guess that logic only works until putting it completely in God's hands means we give up control of church finances). Ummm...God...yeah, you're in charge...ummm...until we're not comfortable with it. Thanks for understanding.
Of course, I have to be aware of Satan's influence on my thinking and attitudes on all of these topics. He would prefer that I not go to church so I have to make sure that my decisions and opinions are not being swayed by anything that is anti-God. That is tough but I have some very strong Christian friends who are able to back me up on a lot of this stuff which provides an important filter that I can trust. But I must always keep asking the question, "Are these thoughts and ideas Godly and are they leading me closer to God or further away?" If the latter is true than I will need to reconsider everything. However, for now, my faith is growing more than it did when I attended full-time and I will find my peace in that.