In November of 1947 Winston Churchill said in an address to Parliament:
“Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
One of my favorite quotes from Mr. Churchill. We might recast his of-quoted lines to apply to Christianity and the church:
Many forms of church have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that church is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that church is the worst form of religion except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.
I like it. And it fits so well. The church is a many-flawed institution, even at its best. I stand with those who lament their having been hurt deeply by churches and church members. I have too. Let me tell you. (Actually, I won’t tell you. But you get my point). I understand why in our day some — many? — have left the church behind but still seek to follow Christ.
But I don’t think it works quite that way. To follow Christ is a team sport, not an individual one. In the New Testament accounts of Christ calling people, it almost never happens to someone who is alone. Even Saul of Tarsus was traveling with a group and needed the grace and help of the anxious Ananias (Acts 9:1-19) to begin his journey aright.
As a pastor you would expect me to argue for the necessity of the church. My credentials for ministry come from the church. And the church provides me with a comfortable living. I grew up in the church so my perspective, even darkened by painful experience, prejudices me in favor of the church.
But as someone seeking to follow Christ more fully and faithfully I cannot see how I can do it alone. No book can replace a whispered word of encouragement from a church member. Being touched by an online post (as marvelous as online community can be) is not the same as someone holding my hand in prayer and love. The most sublime experience of this committed introvert pales in the light of heart-felt and Spirit-filled worship.
House church or mega church or chapel down a country lane. Contemporary worship or traditional praise. Methodist, Catholic, nondenominational, Baptist (and every other human label).
I need the church… you need the church..we need the church together.