Thursday, April 7, 2011

Do we need church?

Is church necessary to be saved? I think it is a question that we ask ourselves. This questions has produced many standby answers from both ends of the spectrum such as “God commanded it so you must worship at church” or “you can worship God anywhere so you don’t need church” “we are saved through faith so it is not necessary” or “it is good for some and not for others.”

There are many available answers to such a controversial subject. However, I believe whatever answer we create to satisfy the nagging question of duty, attendance, and salvation will be insufficient. I purpose that the very question itself makes it impossible to have a sufficient answer. Having the right question is just as important as having the right answer. The right question can lead us to right answers, but inappropriate questions have power to completely drive us off course. The Pharisees understood the power of the misleading question and many times tried to trap Jesus with their questions. In John 8 a woman who was “caught in the very act of adultery” was brought before Jesus so that they may catch him in a trap. They reminded Jesus that the law says someone caught in adultery should be stoned to death. Basically the Pharisees were asking Jesus if they should follow the law or not. Again Jesus was asked another question in attempt to trap him in Matthew 22 when he was asked if the Jewish people should pay taxes or not. At the time Rome was in charge and Caesar was a self proclaimed god and an enemy of the Jewish people. When Jesus was asked this question he was basically being asked “do we obey God, or Caesar?

In both instances Jesus refuses to answer the question. Instead Jesus gives a completely different answer that breaks outside the boundaries those very questions made. When asked if the woman should be stoned Jesus answered outside the boundaries of the question of law and obedience and gave an answer that was centered on grace and mercy. When Jesus was asked about the taxes Jesus answered outside the boundaries of honor and gave an answer that was centered on ownership.

When we ask if church is necessary we are basically asking a law based question about salvation. If we are honest we are simply trying to discover the bare minimum we have to do on order to be saved. A satisfying answer can never to be given to such a question because it is the wrong question with wrong motives.

It is the wrong question because we mix love and grace with law and punishment. The question is also wrong because of this word “saved.” This word “saved” has too often limited our understanding of what God is doing. The calling of Jesus was not simply to be saved, but to be restored, made new. This is why Jesus says “follow me.” If Peter’s response to Jesus’ call to follow him was “I have faith in you to be saved, but I will not follow” Peter would have missed out on the restoring life Jesus was offering. Many of us think we can “believe” in Jesus and stay put. Jesus bids us to follow so that we may be saved, and more, that we are made new. The pursuit of our life is not to be “saved.” The pursuit of our life must be to follow Jesus so that he can do the saving and the restoring.

The question may be better asked “Do I need to go to church to follow Jesus to experience restoration?”

That question is still not perfect and needs more editing, but we are closer to the truth. What do you think? If you are following Jesus than do you need church to be restored? And what else do we need to change to ask a more theological accurate question?

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