Now, the things I have been writing about for the past three days, I have done with a little hesitation. That is, I know it can easily be misconstrued as excuses, and let me be clear:
There is no excuse for not being an active part of God's community. Period.
I go to church every Sunday knowing the tear I'm going to feel between the Christ and the community. I go knowing this, but I still go. Why? Because God is there, and I want to be where God is. Simply that and nothing more.
But how do I know God is there when I don't experience Him? That may have been a poor job on my part. I do not experience the God of my personal worship at church. I do not experience the same closeness with God at church that I do in private prayer, in quiet Bible study, in moments of peace and empty spaces. I do not experience the God that I treasure most intimately in my heart in a building on Sunday mornings. Maybe I'm not supposed to. In fact, I don't think I am. But I share that because I know I'm not alone in that, and I want others who have the same experience (or lack thereof) to know that they are not alone. Notice what else I said in that piece, though: I experience God in my community. I wouldn't trade that for the world.
There's a certain precedent for that. In the Old Testament, in particular, the community of Israel always came together to remember their God and experience Him together. Experience Him in the way He's worked among them. It gets a little lost because our Bible is primarily the story of God told through individuals, but if you pay attention to the text, you see that the setting of God is the community. (I could go off on a tangent about the individualism of God in our post-modern society but...not today.)
That is why, regardless of how you experience God in church, you must be a member of God's church. You have to go on Sunday mornings, on Saturday nights, to small groups, to mid-week services. You have to be there among His people because God is there. And you ought to want to be where God is, even if He doesn't "feel" as close and personal as you ache for in any holy moment.
And as for serving...
There are people who will read my guidance on discernment (which is personal method, by the way, and not meant to be taken as perfect by any means) and decide that there's simply nothing in God's church they can do. If that's the case for you, let me tell you - you're wrong. By that very conclusion, that there's nothing you can do for God's church, you reveal a hidden question that must be answered by serving. That question may be, "Aren't I too good for this?" Then scrub your church toilets. Because you are not too good to work for the Kingdom of God. That question may be, "Am I good enough?" Then pass out bulletins on Sunday morning. Because you will find that you are worthy to stand among God's people.
For every reason you can find, or concoct, not to serve in God's church, that is the very reason why you should. Not why you should do everything, but why you should do something.
Paul even tells us this. The body of Christ is made up of many parts, each with its own contribution to make. Do you know how hard it would be to stand if you did not have a pinky toe? Someone did a study on this and found it ridiculously difficult, if not impossible, to find balance without a pinky toe. It shifts literally everything else in your body to make up for not having that tiniest little piece of bone. So however small you think your contribution to the body of Christ is, know this: if you don't do it, everything else in the body has to shift.
Which is how we end up with people doing everything and some people doing nothing and everyone aching for a tangible God in their service and thirsting for a holy work.
All that to say this - I wanted to say some things about how I love and work in the community of God. I wanted to say some things about the way I experience Christ and community...and Christ in community. But I fully believe in both.
If you're not in church, get in church. Find a community of God where His story is unfolding. Find a place where He is being revealed. And be there.
And if you're in a community of God, do something. Anything. Do one thing for the community of God that you are in. Pass out bulletins. Pass trays. Scrub toilets. Change light bulbs. Bake snacks. Shake hands. Lead worship. Preach. Whatever it is that you're called to do, do it. If you don't think there's anything you can do, you're wrong. If you don't think there's anything you should do, you're wrong again. The body of Christ is waiting on you to be who you were meant to be.
And we were all meant to be something in His body. We were meant to be a part of His church. So be there. Be here. Do something.