You can’t follow Jesus without the church!
When children are small they have many irrational fears. The fear of the dark, the fear of being alone, the fear of “what’s in my closet?” or “what’s under my bed?”. But the fear abates when someone they love and trust is with them even in the dark. Dark times and irrational fears are not limited to childhood. We carry these with us. While the boogey man and “what’s under my bed” fears go away because of our experience, living life when life is unclear and uncertain can certainly stir up fears; real or imagined. How do we shed those fears and move forward? We need people in our lives that we love and trust. Fear often does not dissipate while going it alone.
So many people, so many Jesus followers say the most asinine thing. “I don’t need to go to church to be a good person.” Why do I think this is foolish? Because I have been an idiot to think this as well. I have tried to do life alone. This does not work! I am who I am because of the social connections I have. People support me.
People who share my faith values keep me sane. When the anxiousness of trying harder to make life work increases, supportive people help it decrease. We all need people who laugh with us, discuss life with us and lend a hand when we need it.
Let me give you an example. Quite a few years ago I decided to replace my deck and build a bigger better version. Good thing too, as I dismantled the old one I discovered the support beams were rotted out. They fell apart in my hands. What you need to know about my endeavor is that was going from a 12x12 foot deck to a 22x14 foot deck with an additional wrap around space of 10x12. Also it’s actually 2 decks, a lower and upper deck. The upper deck is about 20 feet high and the lower one about 10. Also I wanted to add stairs connecting the two. What I did was begin a project that was way over my head! I had no idea how to anchor this massive project. I had no idea how to actually build it. I just started asking people for advice, which is actually a plea for help. At each phase a new challenge arose. As each phase someone materialized that knew what they were doing. Now many years later my deck has been enjoyed by my friends and envied by my neighbors (at least this is my happy perception).
What began as a lone project, emerged as a community of people with different skills to help make this happen. It was the friendship and trust of people that created an object of beauty and purpose. Isn’t this the way so many of us live? We bumble through our lives thinking we’ll figure it out on our own, and then end up needing others to help us. Could I have built the deck on my own? Absolutely. It would have been inferior, probably unsafe and I just might have had to have been hospitalized. I need someone to walk alongside me. I needed people with more expertise than I had to finish the project.
You and I are a project in some ways. We are a work in progress. We often get over our heads and but foolishly think, “I just have to figure this out.” You may never figure it out. You will certainly never be the person of faith you want to be on your own. You have to ask, “Who’s going to walk beside me?” So let’s quite kidding ourselves and think we can follow Jesus alone. We need faith friends along the way. Some may say that “I’m fine.” I have a few friends and my family. I don’t need the church.” This is crazy thinking. Sure you’ll be “fine”, whatever that means. But you will not be the person God has in mind. A switch had to happen in our thinking. It has to be from a “me” centered spirituality, where I am the creator and measure of my life, to a “we” centered spirituality, where people different from me, and may I say, even frustratingly different than me, help craft my life. For life flows in a community of people. Life flows from people who are like “Iron shaping iron.” Too often I discount the very people God put in my life because they upset me or make me uncomfortable. So we retreat into our own self-made enclaves; people like me who like me, people like me who I like. Again, I craft my own life. The deck that we built came from people very much unlike me. Some were friends I like to hang out with (Until I don’t like hanging out with them) and some were acquaintances. But they were not people I chose, they were people I needed.
You may live a relatively happy life without the church, but you certainly will not live a very Christ shaped one. And you perhaps may not like in the end who you end up being.