Most believers agree that a Christian community can be a wonderful thing. Many times we’ve been warned not to let it become an exclusive club. As one comment I found on Pinterest said:
“Church should be a hospital for sinners, not a museum of Saints.”
Personally, I’ve found it is the best place to get encouragement, instruction, balance and support to help me grow in all areas of life. I would never be in the healthy state I’m in had it not been for good Christian community with caring Christian folk. (See Hebrews 10:24,25)
Obviously, not all churches are that sort of community, and that’s given church-going a lot of bad press, exposing them to the charge of hypocrisy.
My question once again is: Is their community based on religious duty or a genuine relationship with God?
History has shown repeatedly that any community tends to become like whoever, or whatever, they really worship... and sadly, even for Christians, it's not always the beautiful God of the Bible.
And... why do we have so many denominations?
I contend that it’s because people have often had a tendency to centre their communities around a set of doctrines rather than their relationship with God and with each other. (Although lately, many walls have been coming down. Thank God!)
I’ve been to many different churches and different styles of worship throughout my life, from a Catholic Mass to an Anglican Holy Communion, and all the way to a wild, booming Pentecostal megachurch. Each have their good points from a biblical standpoint. Each also have some theological challenges at times. I’m not here to debate which one is the best or worst.
I have seen caring Catholics as well as protestants.
“As long as you’re sincere,” many insist these days, “You can’t go wrong. You can worship any way you want. God doesn’t care.”
There may be a grain of truth in what they say about sincerity. But you can also be sincerely wrong.
Terrorists certainly appear to be terribly sincere in what they do and how they worship.
So there are some clear, objective guidelines about how we worship.
Jesus said “the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.” (See John 4:23,24)
We worship Him from our heart (“..in spirit..”), with the power of the Holy Spirit, being swept up in the glory of God’s wonderful presence.
But in reality, we don’t always feel that.
We can also worship deliberately in what Jesus considered to be “Truth”, both subjective truth (sincerely and honestly) and also objective truth -- according to the pattern of behaviour as set out in the whole of the scriptures. Not just what suits our personality, or how we feel at the time.
“So what is it with these crazy Christians?
They sacrifice a perfectly good day-off to dress up and get together to sing these old traditional songs, wave their arms in the air and shout, maybe even get so excited that they dance for joy over some empty non-event. Weird!
Instead they could spend their day-off getting together with the Faithful at that most hallowed ground, the MCG. There we dress up in our team’s colours, sing that grand ol’ traditional song and wave our hands in the air and shout when our team kicks a goal.
And if we win, we go totally mental!
Now doesn't that make more sense than all that Christian religious hype?”
Pardon my tongue-in-cheek satire above, but I think you get the message.
I hope you saw the irony in it. Religion doesn’t have to be a recognised faith system. There are even some Atheist churches around these days.
Sadly, many of us disconnect in our “worship” and our church community -- myself included at one stage. Then it becomes mere meaningless religion that people around us reject -- and we can’t blame them! Conversely, people have often been attracted to genuine, caring communities. (See John 13:35).
So let’s continue to work on our relationship with God, as well as each other.