Who needs church? (Life ogether Chapter 1)

The opening chapter of Philip Yancey’s book Church, Why Bother? contains these words, “I now see that the Deep South fundamentalism of my childhood represented far more than a place of worship or a spiritual community. It was a controlled environment, a subculture. I now recognize that a harsh church full of condemnation and empty of humility and any sense of mystery, stunted my faith for many years. In short, Christianity kept me from Christ.”

In his recent book Real Church, Larry Crabb asked why he and so many of his friends do not want to go to church anymore.

For the last ten years or so, a steady stream of books has come out trashing the church. But not the church, as much as the people in the church. The basic message (Perhaps I’m oversimplifying, but it seems to me the basic message.) of these books is that we love the leader of the church but we can’t stand to be a part of the people in it. Many authors treat the church like it is something that we have to overcome.

In Life Together, his book on church life, Dietrich Bonhoeffer does not trash the people of the church. The book begins by quoting Psalm 133:1 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” And he says some powerfully affirming statements about Christian community:

“It is not to be taken for granted that the Christian has privilege of living among other Christians.”

“The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer.”

“It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God.”

“Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.”   

Let me say that I sympathize with those who find problems in the church. My church experience has sometimes been disappointing. I’ve never been to a perfect church. Every church I’ve attended or pastored has had some crazy moments. But the longer I live, the more I more I want to be a part of giving and receiving the life of Christianity with other people seeking to do the same. I’m not interested in condemning the crazy moments. I’m not interested in exalting the great moments. I’m interested in living real life with other people who are interested in doing the same. I’m interested in finding common ground in Christ and walking together in the path He set out.

I thank God I can. And I want fill my heart with more praise for the community rather than condemnation. I’m tired of the snide backhands of so many who write about the church. I’m tired of their blanket condemnations. I’m tired of those who cannot see what Bonhoeffer saw in the greatness of community. I choose to enjoy what God has established.

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