Are you here?

Are you here?

I read a column the other day by a Disciple minister, one of many that pass across my desk or through my Facebook page. Its title caught my attention right off: “Sorry, but if you’re a Christian, you need to go to church. Regularly.”

It went on to explain the provocative title with a thought from a church expert. That, if we want to progress in our faith; if we hope to become mature, complete, functioning Christians, we must not only join a congregation, but stay there for the “long haul” and become active participants. The author has some caveats before going further: he is not talking to non-believers; he is addressing persons of other faiths; he isn’t saying people who rarely go to church are fake Christians; he is not contending that failure to attend church is a one-way ticket to the Nether World; he is not saying a believer should suffer abuse in an unhealthy church.

Here is what he means to say: Christianity is a team sport. (Seemed a fitting description for this time of March Madness!) No matter how good an individual Christian believes oneself to be, progress along the faith journey will not occur unless there is a community of faith, a congregation of others who can walk along beside you. It just can’t be done alone. I’m pretty sure that Jesus understood this principle of faith development as well. Jesus went to the temple at a young age and became a regular attender as well as a teacher. When he began his ministry, he instituted the “discipleship” model by which he recruited potential believers who could then become a mini congregation. As time went by they would learn from each other, support each other and explore their future missions together.

Biblical materials support this: Hebrews commands us to never forsake gathering for worship. The congregation becomes an extended family with all the inherent difficulties, the adjusting, the negotiating, the blessings and the unconditional love. The church is not about us; we’re sent to church to serve others as much as we’re there to be served. We each possess gifts and talents others need. If we’re not present, we’re denying them the benefits from those gifts and talents God intends for them to enjoy and grow in faith. We receive encouragement and support from each other. Supporting Christ’s church is the same as supporting Christ.

 Come worship, share your gifts, receive the blessings of the community, and progress toward mature faith!