‘You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian’, is a phrase people often seem to say to me. It’s one that I don’t particularly agree with. It’s like saying, ‘You don’t need a partner to be married,’ or ‘You don’t have to go to school (in some form) to be a student’.
When people say this to me what that tend to really mean is that they broadly agree with Christian principals, but they find the ritual (and self discipline of church-going) an unnecessary burden, or boring, or not particularly high on their list of priorities.
However the Bible makes it clear that to be a Christian involves an active participation in a community of believers. Such a community takes many different forms, but it always involves other people worshipping, studying, praying and living out their faith together.
By not going to church we are denying the body of Christ the gifts God has given to us. We are also more likely to make God in our own image, thereby becoming a God with whom we grow very comfortable and very complacent.
There is a well-known story of a young man sitting beside a fire with an old priest. The young man says to the priest, ‘You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian’. The old priest doesn’t answer. Instead he takes hold of the fire poker and removes from the fire a single glowing ember which he places on the fireside. As the young man watches the solitary ember he sees that, removed from the fire, it quickly burns out.
As St Paul makes clear in his letter to the Corinthians, Church is a group of people which he compares to a human body – where each person represents a different part – all the parts are needed to make a healthy body. Your church needs you if it is to be the healthy body God wants it to be.
Thy Kingdom Come is a global prayer movement that invites Christians around the world to pray for more people to come to know Jesus – to be part of his Church, the body of Christ. Christians from more than 170 countries and 65 denominations will be taking part between Ascension and Pentecost (13-23 May) – and we will be joining them. During this time who might you be praying for that they would become part of the Church so that we might all benefit from one another’s gifts and be the healthy body we are called to be?
Yours in Christ,