A few weeks ago, I was listening to Dave Ramsey on a Friday afternoon drive. The show is about financial responsibility, with a particular focus on eliminating debt, and Friday's shows are largely dedicated to celebrating with people who have recently escaped debt. One debt-free story that day caught my attention. This couple had begun the process in earnest, after however many months of budgeting and sacrificing, they had grown a little weary. Intellectually it made sense to get out of debt, they believed it was a good idea to go about it so intensely, but the process was really, really hard. So when they saw that a live show was coming to their area, they went and gathered with thousands of others who were fighting the same debt battle they were. Refreshed and encouraged, they were able to continue the fight with renewed energy and persevere to victory.
When I heard them tell their story, all I could think was, I know where I really need to be Sunday morning!
This couple clearly understood that when you're in a difficult struggle, it helps tremendously to be mutually encouraged with others in the same situation. Share your victories and failures, help each other put the past behind them and move on, encourage one another to persevere. Without that, it's easy for a good idea to fall apart when things get too rough.
Many others in all sorts of circumstances get this concept as well. Substance abuse support groups, divorce recovery groups, playgroups for little kids (really, so their moms can get together), people training for marathons together, whatever. If it's a hard but worthwhile goal, people everywhere know they need to support each other.
So why is it that so many supposed self-professed Christians don't seem to get this? Or they understand and just don't care?
We've seen stats about how many claim to be Christians yet never go to church. I'm sure we've all heard cries of LEGALISM!!!1! whenever someone suggests that Christians should commit to a church and actually attend. Heaven help you if you suggest something like joining a small group or doing anything beyond attending on Sunday morning. The voices clamoring against church membership (or the organized church itself!) are legion, many of which belong to people who profess to be in Christ!
And this is where we could recount the many Biblical arguments for church membership - the myriad 'one another' commands, the fact that the church is where Jesus hangs out, the incongruity between claiming to love Jesus while despising his bride, the illustration of being part of the body, the occasional outright command, etc.
But even if none of this was true, not even a single bit, claiming to be a Christian and not being committed to a church would still be colossally stupid. Look, the Christian life is hard. There are bound to be numerous times where you're tempted to give up entirely. All the other things listed above that people know they need help to persevere through - living as a faithful Christian is harder than any of them, maybe all of them combined. So who would ever think it's a good idea to make a go of it alone?
I would suspect that if your life as a Christian is easy enough without being mutually committed to a congregation of fellow believers, your life isn't remotely Christian.
If you're for some reason claiming to follow Jesus, yet remain defiantly disobedient and utterly foolish regarding his church, I urge you to stop pretending and finally choose one. Either obey Jesus and be part of the chosen vessel for displaying God's glory, or stop claiming his name.
5 hours ago