Is Church optional?

Church, do we really need to attend? Can't we be spiritual on our own? 

With A Little Help From My Friends

Is Church optional?

There is just so much to do. There are chores and entertainments, get-a-ways and sports with the kids or on TV, out of town guests in for a visit.  Maybe you even have to actually go to work to make ends meet. It’s Sunday. In that to do list, that to experience list, church is a low priority.  There are other things that are more important. Church is optional.

Besides, with all the stuff on the internet you can catch the best preachers, listen and watch the best music, in live feeds, in video podcasts. You can listen to podcasts in your car on the way to and fro. Do you really need to make a physical appearance at church anyway? Church is optional.

Maybe you’ve had one of those bad experiences with church. The pastor, the music, the message, the people, just crushed your expectations. I wouldn’t want to be part of the stereotypical church. Leaders are hypocritical, too many moral failures in leadership. My questions never get answered, my doubts never addressed. The environment is too conservative, judgmental, and self-focused. Church is all about raising money and making me feel guilty and telling me how bad I am and how much worse those who don’t agree with leadership are. Church is irrelevant, I am concerned about other things. Church is full of people that are against everything. Church is optional.

Maybe it’s a matter of economics: What’s in it for me? If you don’t see a direct benefit; if you don’t see the value in attending week after week, why bother? People make time for what they value most. Church is optional. Just remember Joni Mitchel’s song Big Yellow Taxi, “don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone.”

Why bother going to church? “I like Jesus but I am not sure I like His followers.” “I am spiritual but not religious.” Religion is nothing but a bunch of outdated antiquated rules. Then there’s that anti-Christianity bias so prevalent in the louder culture that some believers will say “I am not a Christian, I am a Christ follower.”  Church is optional.

Church is optional. So you decide you’ll just cultivate your relationship with God in your own.
You can cover 6 of the 7 habits of a disciple all on your own. The discipline of fellowship is pretty hard to do by yourself, but the rest you can pull off in a church free environment.

I just tipped you off to that answer to our question. Is the Church Optional? Is church an inconsequential take it or leave it proposition? The answer is no. Church is not optional. For your consideration three reasons why church is not optional: Jesus went to church, we need support, and we need community.

Just a note of clarification, Church is not the facility where people gather to worship. We normally equate the idea of Church with a building.  The word church has its roots in the idea of “the called out ones.” Addressing an egoism driven culture we read in Revelation 18:4
“Get out, my people, as fast as you can, so you don't get mixed up in her sins, so you don't get caught in her doom” (Rev 18:4 (MSG).
The church is people.

God wants you to go to church, to gather with the people. He wants you to keep a Sabbath, a change of pace day, made for relational reconnection.  The church is an unrivaled means of support. If you feel you don’t need any support, believing yourself to be self-sufficient, you won’t come. The church is a great source of friendship. People attend because they have friends that attend. If you are not connected with others in the church you won’t keep coming back.

If you have decided that God’s way is the way you want to go; Acknowledging that you have been going your own way and now regret the dead ends you have traveled; Believing that Jesus is the way, the narrow way, leading to living your life to the full; Committing yourself to God as His slave, learning how to be a disciple of Jesus; and then asking God to accept your faith. God in His grace and mercy, accepts you as his own and makes you part of “the called out ones,” the ekklesia (ecclesia), the Church. The Church is people. The Church is believers in right relationship with God and one another. Today if you are not a member of the Church I suggest you decide, with this opportunity that has presented itself for your consideration, to ask God to make you one of His own.

The church is the community of believers in right relationship with God. Our gathering, our faith community, is just a gathering of His people. When we gather, we are having church.

The Apostle Paul preambles his letter to the faith community in Corinth: “Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ--their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:1-3 (NIV). [also Galatians 1:13; Matthew 16:18]

Paul address the Church but then speaks about beleivers. We are the church

Church is not optional because God wants His people to gather weekly.
Exodus 20:8-11 (MSG)
Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don't do any work—not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. For in six days God made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; he rested on the seventh day. Therefore God blessed the Sabbath day; he set it apart as a holy day.

There’s a lot we can say about the Sabbath and keeping it holy, its the change of pace day, the day to revisit, renew, reenergize, reconnect with God, family, friends who like you are believers. You’ve got to work to make a living but to live a life you’ve got to keep the Sabbath.
Jesus kept the Sabbath
Luke 4:16 (NIV)
[Jesus] went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day, he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.

It was Jesus custom to be part of a gathering that was seeking to endear their relations with God and each other every week. It was his custom, therefore there must be some reason Jesus habitually did this. I encourage you to discover that reason. Find out why Jesus didn’t want to miss that weekly gathering. As Christ-followers it is expected that we will do the things Jesus did, and just maybe in the doing of them, we will understand why.

Matthew 18:20 (MSG)
“…when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I'll be there."

You don’t have to do church in the traditional American cultural setting, but church, gathering with His people, is not optional.

Church is not optional because you follow Jesus example.
Church is not optional because you need support.

That great group of theologians from the 60’s and 70’s.
Sargent Peppers Lonely Club Heart Band, better known as the Beatles sang: “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

In George R Martin’s book The Game of Thrones, he writes: When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives.”

All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten, Robert Fulghum wrote: “When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.”

The famous poem by John Donne “No Man Is An Island,” is another expression of the idea that human beings do badly by themselves.
Scripture tells us the same thing:
Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NIV)
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

When life is good to you, things are just going well, clicking along at a great pace, health, prosperous, fun times, you don’t need support. But when the bottom drops out, the storm hits, the catastrophe occurs, the problems landslide, it’s very difficult to make it on your own.

You thrive in the tribe.
One of the great problems today is that we don’t need each other to survive. One reason the church thrives is that it’s being persecuted and believers need to band together for mutual care and encouragement. Maybe church is optional because we just don’t need each other at this time.

When you are in the struggle of bringing the kingdom to others, you need the help others can give to keep you accountable and keep you keeping on. It’s too easy to give up when you’re trying to do life on your own.

Bill Withers nailed it when he created the song Lean On Me. “I’ll help you carry on, for it won’t be long, ‘till I’m gonna need somebody to lean on.” You can’t lean on yourself. Church is not optional.

Church is not optional because you follow Jesus example.
Church is not optional because you need support.
Church is not optional because you need community.

Community and support are very closely related but community is more about belonging. People have a need to belong. Community is about being a part, it's more about fellowship with the group, it’s about having friends, it’s about participation. People don’t stay in a particular gathering of the church because the facility is first class, the music is great, the programs a consumers delight, the preacher always encouraging, they stay because they have friends. Community ends the isolation. Community is about having solid social connections. People need “Face-time,” and I am not talking about the Apple app, rather, interaction with others who are physically present.

The scripture sets a high bar for community.

Romans 1:12 teaches the called out ones to encourage each other’s faith

Romans 12:16 admonishes the called out ones to live in harmony

1 Corinthians 1:10 tells the called out ones to be united in mind and thought. The mind and thought we are to be united in is love, loving one another.

Galatians 6:2 instructs the called out ones to carry each other’s burdens.

Colossians 3:13 urges the called out ones to forgive one another

Hebrews 10:24 instructs the called out ones to spur one another on toward love and good deeds

1 Peter 4:8 informs the called out ones to love one another deeply.

In community you’re not alone, you’re not isolated. If you were asked what the opposite of loneliness is, would you say belonging? That sense of belonging creates a climate for happiness to happen. You’re not in this by yourself, we are in this together. You’re part of the group. Here’s some really good news, in the church there is no artificial human created separations.

Galatians 3:28 (MSG)
In Christ's family, there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us, you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ.

Church is not optional because you follow Jesus example.
Church is not optional because you need support.
Church is not optional because you need community.

Build Your Kingdom Here  Rend Collection

We are His Church.

Church is totally optional when God’s commands are just suggestions.
Church is totally optional when you don’t need support from anyone.
Church is totally optional when you don’t need to belong.

Let me toss a couple more at you—
Church is totally optional when you don’t participate.
Church is totally optional when you are not connected to anyone else in the church.
Church is totally optional when you want entertainment.
Church is totally optional when it holds no interest to you.
Church is totally optional when its all about you.

But Church is not optional.
God told His called out ones to gather weekly
You can’t practice the 3rd Spiritual Habit of a disciple, fellowship, without it.
Without the support of the church, you are out in the world alone.
Without the church, you will find something else to belong to, and whatever it is, it will only last a short time.

Our gather is doing more on social media than ever before. On Facebook the page we are live streaming every Sunday. On the website we have podcasts and video teachings. These are great tools when you can’t physically make it to the gathering. There is something we need to add to these opportunities, we need to have an interactive platform like FaceTime, Skype, a Video Conference Call in which those who can’t make it to a gathering can still participate through technology and not be a spectator. I am looking for help to pull this off.

Regardless of the forces in the culture that seeks to keep you from gathering with other called out ones, the scripture reminds us

Hebrews 10:23-25 (NIV)
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--

Spiritual health and vitality requires that believers gather together. 


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