At this point, the objection from those who have left the church and struck out on a social justice mission for Jesus is going to be, "But I do go to church. I go to church at..." my house, the woods, the soup kitchen, the coffeeshop, whatever. "That's my church."
See, church is not doing good works for others. That's part of what the church does, but it's not church.
Church is not hanging out with your friends. It's a place of fellowship, yes, but just hanging around with the persons you like and sometimes, maybe, talking about Jesus is not church.
Church is not praying every morning and reading your Bible every night. These are things that you should be doing, but they're not church.
Church is not turning the worship music up in the car or listening to that super-hip pastor's podcast, even if you take notes while doing it. You might do these things at church, but that's not what the church is.
The church is the body of Christ's disciples, and if what you're doing doesn't make any effort at all to connect to that body - to become part of the one that Christ calls us to be, to work in harmony with those who fill different roles than you, to fellowship with fellowshippers, to worship with worshippers, to contribute to the overall mission of the church that is undeniably connected to Christ and professed and recognized as such - then what you're doing isn't church.
You can't do church by yourself.
You can't do church by yourself. You can't do it with just your family. You can't do it with a small group of close friends who like to do cool stuff with you. You can't do church unless you are deliberately, intentionally, holistically doing church with the millions of other Christians around the world and across time who have been working together as one body since Christ walked His out of the grave.
In other words, you can't be a disciple unless you're willing to get in the boat with the rest of us. That's what the church is, and it's beautiful that way.
That doesn't mean you can't love God by yourself. It doesn't mean you can't worship Him on your own. It doesn't mean you can't tell His story or He can't tell His story through you. The Gospels are full of stories of men and women crying out in the streets, calling out to Him. His story is told through what He did for the least of these.
You can certainly be the least of these.
But it's much better, I think, to be the church. That's what God had in mind all along. It's what Jesus prayed for. It's where the Spirit showed up. It's how the believers got through tough times, by clinging to each other the way they clung to God, by knowing they were given a fellowship under the wisdom of His Lordship. It's how the disciples got through the storms, by being in the boat together. By traveling together. By walking together. By praying together. By breaking bread together. Everything in the Scriptures leads us to together.
No matter how hard you try, you can't do together alone.
So yes, you need the church. Yes, you need the broken, hypocritical, not-always-your-style church. Yes, you need the drag-yourself-out-of-bed-on-Sunday-morning, might-miss-kickoff, arguing-the-kids-into-the-car church. It's God's beautiful gift to you. Why would you settle for anything less?
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