Thursday, April 3, 2014

Go to Church, What's the point?

The question of the world to our church 

Gone are the days when church attendance helped you look good to your neighbors.   In the world of my
parents and grandparents people felt guilty if they were seen outside of church on Sundays.   Today people feel guilty if they don't workout.  They are more likely to say on a Sunday "Darn! I missed my bike ride ! (Or yoga class, golf, or whatever) than they would lament at not being able to worship.    There is no societal pressure in New Jersey to be a person of faith,  in fact it may be seen as a liability to some because it makes you less available to do the things that convey status these days.  I do think those who argue that we are persecuted today are grossly exaggerating.   I have personal friends who lived under dictatorships who were persecuted for their faith, and that is not what is going on in Union County New Jersey.   People are not presenting to me that they are hostile to those of us who practice our Christian faith, they are just... neutral.

Searching for the Answer

I personally think this is a great time to be the church, because in this atmosphere where people in the culture are neutral towards us, we have the blessing of being able to see the real answer to the question of what's the point without the blinders of popularity.  We can use the tools of our faith, scripture, prayer, conversation to uncover the Holy Spirit's true purpose of a life of faith and then spend some time talking about the question with those in our neighborhood an communities.   They answer that we will come up with will certainly be better than "everybody else is going."  It will be a real answer, that reveals a real purpose.

The Wrong Answer 

"I go to church to get fed!"  Well good for you.  So what? I can get fed at lots of places in the culture.   The person who stays in and gets up late to read on Sundays can honestly tell you the same thing.  So can the guys I see on the way to church on their road bikes, or running along the paths. (three things that I actually get fed by).   If this is our only answer to the question of what's the point?  Than I am sorry to say, that there would be no point.   Being fed is not enough of a reason to make the sacrifices we make to be the church. No neutral person in our culture would see the purpose of showing up at our door if that is our only answer. Now don't get me wrong, lots of churches do a lousy job of feeding people spiritually and physically. The decline of Christianity in our culture was aided by churches that just asked people to give without feeding and building them up in the first place.   Feeding people spiritually and physically is a good start,  but it is the start, not the goal, and certainly not the point.

The Bible's Answer 

"I will bless you.. so that you will be a blessing"  (Genesis 12:2) says God to Abram.  In this simple phrase we begin to see the answer that will not only give us something to say to the culture but to sustain ourselves as we journey in a life discipleship of Jesus Christ.  We are called by Christ to help, to serve, to proclaim, to build up, and to bless.   Yes this means to make a difference, but it is more than this.   Yes, this means to proclaim our faith, but it is more than this too.  Indeed it is to speak up for those who have no voice, but it will be more than this as well.  "Peace (shalom or wholeness) I leave with you, As the Father sent me, I send you" (John 20:21) says Jesus, when the disciples see him resurrected.   The Bible's answer is clear.  God calls us to go to be part of a church (or any Christian community) for the exact same reason that Jesus was sent to the world!   When we witness and experience the resurrected Jesus we are sent to bring peace (wholeness) to our neighbors.   That may mean food, or prayer support, or baby siting, or spiritual direction or any host of other things as long they do the work of Jesus to include, reconcile, feed, heal , cast out demons, and yes, even save.

Your Answer 

As the culture is neutral about the church, it is neutral about the Bible,  so just giving the above answer may not at first resonate or seem relevant to those we see on a daily basis.   The way they will see our purpose is by seeing it work out in our lives as we try to do the things Jesus showed us how to do.  This means finding a beautiful and creative way to make Jesus' story part of your story,  not in artificial or boilerplate way, but in a way that is real to you and evident to those around you.   We have word for this in Christian circles,  it is discipleship.   Disciples reflect their master,  they do the same work and have the same agenda.   They go about the work in their own way that reflects who they really are, but the purpose is the same. Disciples of Jesus
 confess that we do the work that Jesus was sent to do.  It is why Paul calls this gathering that meets somewhere near you on Sunday "the body of Christ". Jesus would also command his disciples to make more (Matthew 28:20),  not to build up some movement, or create an organization, or institution, but to carry on what He started at the Cross.

My Answer 

To become a disciple of Jesus Christ,  because like him, we do good for the world.

Keep the Faith,
Pastor Knecht

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