The Growing Importance of Church
By Pastor Tom Anderson
Do you know someone in the “you-don’t-need-to-go-to-church-to-believe-in-Jesus” camp? This is a shop-worn excuse for disobedience and disconnection from our Lord. Theologically and Biblically it’s a loser. Jesus clearly intended to found the church to carry on his mission. Jesus clearly loves the church and guides it. It makes no sense to say a believer doesn't need what Jesus created, loves and guides.
It must be accepted that some among us are home-bound for various physical circumstances. For these Christians, it’s not possible to come to church. Yet, they have the strong desire to come and often wonder why able-bodied people would deliberately hunt excuses to stay personally disconnected from church.
But there is another reason why finding reasons to avoid church is increasingly harmful. As digital pursuits splinter and isolate people in the 21st century, the hunger for community and solidarity is growing. It’s increasingly a matter of good mental health to reconnect people in vital communities of faith.
Which of these pursuits is best for people?
Having a habit of sit-down family meals or a habit of take-out food eaten alone while scrolling on your phone? Cooking and eating with family does wonders for a sense of belonging, relationship and meaningful life. By contrast, solitary meals with social media is a contributing factor to depression, loneliness and distress. Going to church is a habit more like a sit-down family meal. It brings the benefit of mutual encouragement and engagement.
Having a campfire or sitting in a room with an electric heater? Both will keep you warm. Both achieve the same function–or do they? Campfires are about connection with friends, laughing, singing, and telling stories together. Given a choice, I’d pick the campfire any day! There might even be a chance at a s’more. You can’t do that with an electric heater.
Watching Tommy Persons in Fiddler on the Roof at Hartland High School or renting the movie on Netflix and watching it on your couch alone? Both of these activities will provide some entertainment value but the first far exceeds the second does it not? So it is with church. It takes some effort and discipline to get there but the value of in-person worship is beyond any devotions you do alone.
Sailing together or watching a travel show on the Discovery channel? When Karen and I were courting, I would take her sailing on our family Sunfish sailboat on Kent Lake. It’s one of my favorite memories. The boat was small and required you to wear a bathing suit and sit close together! Both of these activities will provide you with some adventure but again, the first one is far above the other. As we go forward the positives of in-person church for mental and spiritual health will become more important than ever before.
John Wesley once observed that Christianity was a social religion and to try to turn it into a solitary pursuit is to destroy it. His words are more true for the digital world than for the 18th century in which he lived. People are beginning to feel it. May we be proactive and prepared for the renewal of in-person worship, Bible study and fellowship. The rising thirst among disconnected people is for community and rootedness in the faith. Putting down roots is how we Thrive.