You hear it all the time.
I’m done with church.
I don’t really need to go to church …my relationship with God is personal.
I’ve had it with organized religion.
The church is a man-made invention, not God’s idea.
I completely understand why a growing number of people are bailing on church. Even people who used to lead in the church often stop attending (here are nine reasons why church leaders do that).
We’ve spent a lot of time working through the issue of declining church attendance (and growing disillusionment with the church) on this blog and in my leadership podcast. (For a summary of the issues, here’s a piece on the 10 reasons even committed church attenders are attending church less often).
I get it.
The church is far from perfect. Life is complex. There are growing options. And the post-modern mind distrusts most things organized or institutional.
But as trendy as the idea of writing off the church may be, it’s a mistake.
While writing off the church passes as sophisticated thinking, it’s actually the opposite; what if it’s a simplistic and even reductionist line of thinking that leads nowhere constructive?
The church isn’t even biblical, is it?
People argue the idea of church isn’t even biblical.
So let’s start with the basics.
First, if you’re a Christian, church is not something you go to. It’s something you are.
You can’t disassociate from church as a Christian any more than you can disassociate from humanity as a person.
You don’t go to church. You are the church.
Second, the church was not a human invention. Half-reading the New Testament with one eye closed will still lead you to the inescapable conclusion that the church was God’s idea.
In fact, most of the New Testament is not about the teachings of Jesus. It’s about the work of the church that Jesus initiated and ordained. I won’t fill this post with scripture verses that prove my point, because, quite frankly, you’d have to get rid of the majority of the New Testament to argue that the church was a parenthetical, made-up organization.
If you want to get rid of the church, you also need to get rid of Jesus.
You can’t have one without the other. He created it.
Maybe what bothers you should actually amaze you.
I understand that the idea of the church being imperfect makes some people despair.
But rather than making us despair, the fact that Jesus started the church with imperfect people should make us marvel at God’s incredible grace.
That God would use ordinary, broken human beings as vessels of his grace, and delight in it, is awe-inspiring. He’s proud of how his grace is beating through your imperfect-but-redeemed life and through the church (have you ever read Ephesians 3:10-11?).
The idea that God would use you and me is pretty amazing. He had other options.