If you spend enough time talking with people – anyone, really – about the things of God, you’ll eventually find them.
Maybe you’re one of them.
So long as the conversation remains planted in “the love of Jesus,” or “loving your neighbor,” or, as the case may be in today’s society, simply “love,” in general, they will loudly agree, and may even compliment you on your “genuine faith.”
Many also may agree with the statement: “Jesus is the answer.”
But the agreement can quickly end, and the conversation go sideway, when the topic changes to church.
While most people, for much of the history of modern America, have sought to avoid religion and politics in polite conversation, many of those who may quite loudly proclaim they love Jesus, can turn quickly to a darker place when discussing the topic of church.
For many, unfortunately, we know “church” was a place where they were hurt – sometimes deeply, and in horrific ways.
For others, we know “church” is simply uncomfortable, as it forces interaction with many people most of us would rather avoid, or forces us to confront ideas and concepts we may not like or which make us itchy.
And others may simply not like the feeling of being judged – rightly or wrongly – for choosing a kid’s sporting event, a round of golf or fishing, or just a late wake-up call and brunch, over gathering with other believers on Sunday morning.
For these, it is very easy to simply proclaim, their spiritual journey is a solo event, not a group activity.
But unfortunately for these, the Bible preaches something entirely different. As God reveals in his Scriptures, there is no way to follow Jesus apart from living in community with others who similarly seek to follow the Master.
When Jesus called his disciples from the shores of the Sea of Galilee, he did not merely call them one at a time. He began by calling them all together, and then had these men (and later, women) culled from different regions, backgrounds and even political persuasions, as the Gospels and church tradition tell us, learn to walk, eat and live together, with the one goal of following their Rabbi, their Teacher, their Master and ultimately, their Lord, wherever he would go – including, ultimately, as history records, to deaths for his Name.
But throughout their lives, after receiving the Call, these men and women lived to not only follow their Master, but to do as he did, making disciples of all people, everywhere, from all races, cultures, backgrounds, creeds and political loyalties, teaching them to live together in love and desire to still follow their Master, Teacher, Savior and Lord.
In the same way, God calls all of us to not only wish for this kind of community, but to actually live it.
And while there are a great many strategies and philosophies floating around Christianity today on how to achieve it, the Scriptures are quite clear where it begins – in the church, gathering together at least weekly, in worship and reverence for our Lord, and in love and fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Most assuredly, this can and will get messy at times, just as all gatherings of human beings ever has. But for those seeking to grow in their walk with Christ, to advance and strengthen their spiritual formation, there is simply no substitute.
Today, please understand: Nothing here was meant as condemnation or an attack on anyone. Instead, please be encouraged to take the step to join with a fellowship of other believers and Christ followers. Come together with others, fallible humans, redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb, to inquire of God together, to humble ourselves and call on his Name, that The One may hear us from heaven, come to us, heal our lives, our relationships, our families, our communities and empower us to live lives worthy of The Call that still resounds throughout the centuries.
Beginning this Sunday, come, find love. Find grace. Find hope. Find renewal. Find strength.
Will you come?