I’m trying to be better prepared to answer when people tell me that Christians do not need to participate in the life and worship of a congregation. What can we say, for example, in answer to the following?
- “I don’t need to be with other people to connect with God.”
- “I can worship God in nature.”
- “I’ve accepted Jesus into my heart, and I know I’m going to heaven. That’s all I need.”
- “I don’t need to be part of a church to help people.”
There’s no doubt about it: living in community with other people of God is challenging, but it is also the place where we experience God’s grace, mercy and love most powerfully–or at least it has been for me. In Christian community we learn how to practice generosity, forgiveness, and all the virtues and actions of Christian living. Church is where we learn how to love even when we don’t feel like it.
Here are some links to helpful reflections on why Christians need to be active participants in a faith community. In Do You Really Need Church? Tara Woodard-Lehman, Presbyterian chaplain at Princeton University, notes that the church is a community of memory. It holds the memory of who God is, and who God calls us to be. The community is a constant reminder of the point of life. She writes, “I forget who I am. I forget who God is. I forget God’s Epic Story of Redemption and Liberation and Renewal and Beauty and Hope.
“I forget. A lot.
“On top of that, there are a gazillion other demands and voices that are vying for my attention all the freaking time.
“So I admit it. I get tired. And I get distracted. And more often than not, I forget.
“I need Church, because Church reminds me of everything that’s important.
“And when I say Church, I’m not talking about a building. I mean the people. I’m referring to the organic, collective, flesh and blood Body of Christ. I’m talking about the beautiful but undeniably imperfect community of people who help me remember who I am, and to Whom I belong, over and over again.
And here is a link to an interview with UCC pastor Lillian Daniel, Why Christians need the church. Daniel notes, “It takes a certain maturity to find God in the person sitting next to you who not only voted for the wrong political party but has a baby who is crying while you’re trying to listen to the sermon. Community is where the religious rubber meets the road. People challenge us, ask hard questions, disagree, need things from us, require our forgiveness. It’s where we get to practice all the things we preach.”
She also notes that the scriptures are meant to be read and interpreted together in community.
I commend these articles to you. And please send in your comments. What do YOU say to folks who believe that Christians don’t need to be part of a church?