“I love Jesus, but I don’t do church.”
This is the beginning of a conversation that I have had countless times with people of all different ages, backgrounds and experiences.
As well as: “I’m a Christian, but I don’t have to go to church in order to love Jesus.”
It’s true. We definitely don’t have to do anything for God, nor is our salvation based on our works or church attendance.
But it’s also true that when we surrender our lives to Him, we naturally desire to learn more about Him, to be a part of the body of Christ and to be held accountable and pointed toward sanctification. We are called to live out an active faith.
One of my favorite verses is 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new.“
When we truly repent, surrender and choose to follow Jesus, we are given a new heart, one that desires godliness and holiness. We are given the opportunity to make the daily choice to leave our past lives behind us and move forward toward the righteous life that He has set out for us.
“If anyone claims to live in Christ, he must walk as He did.” 1 John 2:6.
I was saved at the age of 19 years old at Mars Hill Church with Pastor Mark Driscoll (a few years before his church fell apart.)
When my husband and I were engaged and first married, we attended Mars Hill together. We both felt “burned by” and heavily disappointed in the church for many reasons, even far before it all came crashing down due to the pastor’s sin and other circumstances.
We have watched people who claim to love Jesus hurt the people around them deeply.
We have witnessed affairs, divorce, hypocrisy, greed and excessive pride.
We have watched some of our closest friends walk away from the church for the reasons stated above and many more. We have seen deep hurt caused by the church and have watched faithful churchgoers turn bitter, angry or broken because of the way these events occurred.
I want to ensure you that I’m not sitting behind a computer screen, lacking empathy or compassion toward the hurt that many of you have likely felt. It’s all very real, and I have felt it too.
And I am also not ignoring the fact that the church is full of sinful people nor that there is hard pain and baggage to come along with it.
I am simply turning my eyes to Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith and my hope.
I have made the choice to not allow the sinful, broken people of the church (those who look just like me) to be a stumbling block that keeps me away from my sinless, perfect and loving Heavenly Father who simply wants to draw us to Himself.
The church isn’t primarily a building or a set of programs or events. It’s a family. A broken family, yes. But a family all-the-more, seeking God to love more, serve more and share light in a super, super dark world.
We see throughout the Bible that Christ Himself was part of the church. His apostles were as well.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25.
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.“
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” Eph. 4:11-12
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:9, “You were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
I fully understand that the ‘American Church’ with massive buildings, coffee shops and rockstar worship leaders with too-tight-skinny-jeans may not be what Christ had in mind. And we must be wise and discerning when choosing a church to ensure that it is bible-believing and bible-teaching.
But although some church buildings themselves may not be the same as the church in Jesus’ day, it is still made up of people who love the Lord (although imperfectly) and come together to hear His word.
While the contextualization has changed, the mission remains the same – to glorify God and make disciples. Though the way we do things now may look a little different than first century Rome, it’s the same mission and strategy that propels us forward; assembling for worship, connecting in community, training up disciples.