Regardless of the denomination you belong to, the church can be messy. Whether you’re Catholic, like myself, or a member of a small church of 100 Baptists, our leaders can often get in God’s way. Temporarily anyway. A lot of the time this is simply because of mistake or error. Other times, our leaders can take advantage of their position, hurting many people in the process. These situations have the power and ability to drive people away from the fellowship of the church.
When I first began writing about my faith and love for Jesus, I kept encountering a common trend among readers. “I have a personal relationship with Jesus. We are to follow Jesus, not his people. I spend time with God on my own.” When I spent time getting to know these people better, they all had something in common. They had either been hurt by the leader of a church or heard a story so frightening, they weren’t willing to take the risk.
I completely understand. I think there is a level of vulnerability that comes with following Jesus all on its own. When we make the decision to go public with our faith, we put ourselves out there for ridicule and judgment. The enemy will even use those closest to us to cause us to question our own decisions. As a Christian writer, I’ve been threatened. I’ve had someone post an Isis flag on the Facebook page of my ministry and threaten that I was going to be in the first video they shot on American soil. The special agent I was put in contact with told me not to worry. The message was sent from Pakistan. I wasn’t in any danger.
When you’ve been hurt by the members of a church or its leaders, anyone would understand deciding it’s not worth the heartache. Who wants to stand for something when the people of the same cause are the ones causing the problems? Why believe in a faith that has over 30,000 denominations? Christians can’t even agree on who is right and who is wrong.
Before I go any further, I encourage personal time alone with God. Reading the Bible on your own is one of the best ways to get to know Jesus and begin to recognize his will. Every person who considers themselves a Christian needs to spend daily time alone in prayer. They need open communication with and through the Holy Spirit on a daily basis. That being said, if you are missing out on the fellowship of a church, you are missing the main goal.
Imagine someone saying, “Hey Jeffrey, I love reading what you write. I enjoy hanging out and watching the game. Your house in one of my favorite places to go. But the next time you invite me over, make sure you ask your wife to leave for a few hours. I can’t stand her.” I’m not going to say what I’d probably end up doing to you. I will say this. This is exactly what we tell Jesus when we say we love him, but don’t respect his church.
Meeting our needs
Without being a member of a congregation, it simply isn’t possible to reach the full potential of our faith. Without regular fellowship with God’s people, we miss out on Jesus communicating with us through them. There’s a certain level of intimacy with God that I don’t believe can ever be achieved on our own. We miss out on the life lessons of others. In a way, we cheat them on what God wants to say to them through us.
God and his church aren’t in need of us. In case you’ve missed it, they’ve both been around for awhile. Neither of them is going anywhere anytime soon. We, on the other hand, need them both. As Christians, we need all of the mess the church has to offer in order to recognize our need for what Jesus accomplished on the cross. We need the correction that only comes from being accountable to others. The fellowship of the church is required in order for us to carry our part of The Great Commission and point others towards the cross.
Don’t go to church, be the church
I’ll leave you with this. The church is not a building. It’s not a dwelling place for God’s people. The ecclesia is a movement for all people. Especially those who have been hurt by someone they depended on for direction. Don’t miss out on getting to know Jesus because of Judas. Instead, learn to love God more through the hearts of his faithful. If nothing else, aim to be the level of forgiveness and acceptance the broken church needs to follow.