“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.John 17:20-23
This morning – Sunday, January 9 – I am thinking about the “why” of going to church. It’s a good question, especially taking into account things like Covid restrictions, and travel time, and the fact that, while focused on God, churches are run and populated by people. And people can mess up in so many ways!
So I try to think about a couple of important truths:
- One is that we we created by and in the image of a God who not only loves us but who imagined, designed, and then formed us to enjoy the experience of community. Simply put, we need one another, and church is a community built around the complete expression of God in Jesus.
- The other truth is that my experience of church has been, consistently, one where I am supported and encouraged in my commitment to worship The Creator, where I am inspired and instructed by The Holy Spirit, and where I move forward in my desire to know Jesus.
To the extent that I am immersed in the life of a church, I am more completely following Jesus. Likewise, the local church is fueled by the passion and the commitment of the disciples who gather there. Church is not only somewhere I can go to gather strength, it is a body I can in turn strengthen – and encourage, and fill with more of God’s light – by my commitment and participation.
One of the questions I like to ask when I am speaking to a church, or a group within a congregation, is this: “If this church suddenly ceased to exist would it make any difference? Would the surrounding community even notice?”
So I go to church not just to worship God (which is enough), not just to be inspired (filled) by the Spirit, and not just to know Jesus more and more… but because a congregation that does all of this, and that follows Christ’s command to love, is the beating heart – the soul – of a community.
And if this world, and in particular the United States, needs one thing to be stronger in these unsettled and unsettling times, then that is its collective soul.
Simply put, church can be the means of grace by which God brings healing to this broken world. That is not only our privilege, it is our responsibility. – DEREK