Why do you go/not go to church? This is a question that has plagued many a pastor's heart. Even the pastor's of churches with 1000s of members mourn the loss of so many who come through their doors and then disappear. What does the church offer that cannot be found anywhere else? We provide opportunities for mission and ministry to the community and to the world, but so do many other agencies. We provide a family style support and accountability network, but those with healthy family dynamics already have this. We provide a spiritual foundation and biblical foundations, but families who take the time to read their Bibles together can find the same foundations. What does the church provide that is unique and essential?
Perhaps it is the combination of all three that makes the church unique. A place that directs, encourages, and organizes opportunities for service, but in the framework of a spiritual foundation and biblical foundation. The also offers a family style support and accountability that rest on those same spiritual biblical foundations. Our confusion comes when we see the church as a building and not a group of people. If you have a group of neighbors and friends who gather together, who seek to love their neighbors and enemies, who seek a spiritual foundation through prayer, Bible study, and gathering together, then you have a church.
That said I would challenge most people who claim to have all of this, but not in some kind of organized format. I'm thinking of those who say things like, "I do good.", "I get involved when I can.", "I read the Bible sometimes." The organization of a church whether they meet in a cathedral, in a home, or under an oak tree brings real accountability and encouragement to the church. Just like dieting, or getting off drugs, the support of others, the discipline that comes from accountability is essential to real life-transforming change. The "church" in whatever form it takes is at it's best when it is at once challenging and comforting it's members. It is at it's best when lives are truly transformed and their is real growth of God's spirit and love.
A test for your own life is to consider this. Are the three simple rules (1-Do No Harm, 2-Do Good, 3-Stay in Love with God) A. something you think about, B. something you believe in, or C. something you live out every minute of every day? If you answered C., then congratulations you are Jesus. If you honestly answered A. or B., then you now understand why there is a church, and where the road ahead is leading.