If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard someone say to me: “I believe in God, but I don’t need to go to church – I say my prayers…” well, I’d have enough to pay this month’s mortgage…
Many people claim to believe in Jesus and to have a spiritual aspect to their lives, but, if this stance is effectively without regular attendance at a church, then, respectfully, I think they’re kidding themselves, and need to hear His voice calling them to church. Going to church regularly, being part of a worshipping community, is no more optional for a Christian than God is optional for humanity.
OK, many people have had bad experiences of church and ‘official’ religion, and some are deeply, deeply scarred, but go find another church or parish – it really is that important. Why? Firstly because Jesus said so. Secondly, because we are social creatures, and without relationships we are enfeebled. If we were all ‘private christians’, the Christian faith would die out within a couple of generations…
Have you ever taken a hot ember
From a fire, and watched it go out?
Then, cold, have you put it back,
And seen the flame quickly spout?
Away from the fire’s blazing core,
A single coal cannot stay aflame.
An image, perhaps, of togetherness,
And church? United in His name.
Have you ever watched a school child,
Walking home alone, quiet and discreet?
But that same kid, with their pals: loud
And boisterous, strutting down the street.
One plus one makes more than two: the
Power of the group, the confident crowd,
The mania of the mob, beyond control,
A human wave, no undercurrents allowed.
Have you ever joined in shared prayer?
Have you felt the force of authentic,
Mature, disciplined prayer together?
A palpable presence, and no gimmick.
“Wherever two or more are gathered
In my name, I am there among them.”
Jesus’ astounding, god-grasping claim.
Should this give solitaries a problem?
Personal prayer is both right and proper,
But not at the exclusion of the gathering.
The church: both temple and meeting place:
Intense devotion and communal caring.
“I don’t need church, I say my prayers…”
A crude claim corroding Christian clout.
“I wish you were hot or cold, but you are
Neither – I vomit you out of my mouth!”
The old maxim: the family that prays
Together, stays together – such wisdom.
The child from the praying home has
A seed sown to harvest God’s kingdom.
If you think your Church has failed you,
You are your church – go help it grow!
“Those Christians – how they love each other!”
Be united in Him – and it will really show…