Let me start this by saying that I think church is very important in the life of a believer. There are many verses that tell us to join together with other believers.
Hebrews 10:25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the middle of them.
And yet so many people are talking about the decline of the evangelical church in America. Yep, I agree. Why do I agree? Because it is difficult to walk into a church in America and be welcomed. It is difficult to belong to a church and be loved and be a part of it. It is difficult to go to church and be challenged. It is difficult to be a part of a church and be discipled. It is nearly impossible to walk into a church and hear talk of spiritual things - talk of sports, talk of home life, talk of school, but talk of God not so much.
Why is church difficult for some? Because so many people want to walk into a church, "serve their time", feel good about it and walk out. They don't want to live it during the week. They need pouring into, they don't want to pour into others. The most common reason for others to not go to church is because it is full of hypocrites. And you know what - it is! We are all hypocrites at some point in our life. There was a great Daily Bread devotion recently titled "Where Sinners Go." Click the link and read it. Here is an excerpt from that:
“Hey, Bob, do you know where sinners go?”
“That’s easy,” he replied. “You’re going to tell me they go to hell.”
“No,” my friend responded. “They go to church.”
For years I think I have had the wrong view of church. I have expected a great deal of it. I also grew up in a denomination that while it preached the word, it was very legalistic and not grace-filled and that has tainted my view for years. I thought church should be the end all, be all. I thought you went there and there were many people older than me who would guide the way. They would be warm and welcoming and oh so hospitable. They would have our family over and teach us how to live. They would talk to us at church and make us feel welcome.
And then I woke up. I was expecting way too much of sinners, of people just like me. I tried to start programs. I wondered why there weren't more programs and I wondered why "those" people weren't even involved in what programs there were.
And then I realized - Gretchen - you are asking something of someone else that you are not even willing to do yourself. I started to look around me and I realized - this church is full of sinners. This church is made up of Christians who have been Christians for 40 years and then some who don't even know John 3:16. This church is made up of people who haven't done anything for Christ (so it seemed) for many years and then there are people who are doing so much their marriage is suffering.
Oh - so these people are really just - wait for it - sinners - saved by grace. They aren't supermen and superwomen.
That is when I decided - I need some accountability - am I going to wait for a phone call from my church secretary telling me that they have chosen a group for me OR am I going to reach out to someone else in a similar stage of life I am in and see if they also need accountability.
And at church, am I going to wait for an elder or deacon to go up to that lady with the twin girls who I know hasn't been here before and introduce themselves and show her children where their Sunday school class is OR am I going to do it?
Am I going to send a note to a discouraged lady who I know is having a hard time or am I going to wait for a mass mailing from church?
Am I going to encourage a friend with a Bible verse by texting or calling her during the week or am I just going to wait for the pastor's sermon on Sunday?
Am I going to help out a friend who isn't a Christian or am I just going to wait for a church visitation hoping they will stop at her house to share the gospel?
Am I going to counsel and pray for someone struggling with a sin that they know is wrong but would surely be rejected if they shared this sin with their church or am I going to help her?
What I am saying dear friends is that if you go to a church - remember that it is filled to the brim with sinners and with people struggling with many different things.
Don't wait for someone else to do something else - Be the Church. Show that person walking in the love of Christ. Start a discipleship group yourself in your home. Reach out to that single mom, to that relative that has fallen away - give grace, show mercy and above all - show them the love of Christ. You don't have to know everything about the Bible - remember the Pharisees? Who did Christ fellowship with - sinners - prostitutes, tax collectors, regular folk.
And to those of you who just don't want to go back to church because there are too many hypocrites there - don't let that stop you. The church is full of sinners. It is why we go. I pray that you will find a church home where someone will reach out to you and show you love of Christ.
Here is one of the thousands of reasons I love Jesus (Matthew 9):
9 As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.
10 Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’[b] For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
It is not the well that need a doctor - but the sick!
Now go forth - and be the church!