SO YOU DON’T WANT TO GO TO CHURCH ANY MORE? (PART 1)
Most of us are aware of the decline of the western Church over the last decades. E.g. Wayne Jacobsen estimated some time ago that 92% of fully ‘Sunday Schooled’ and ‘Youth Programmed’ young people in the US left their local church when leaving home. In South Africa, the Dutch Reformed Church reported last year (2011) that they had lost some 20,000 members (making up about 200 congregations).
But here are ‘FIVE SURPRISES’ concerning believers and their relationship with their local church…
SURPRISE no. 1. Globally, there are hundreds of thousands of serious believers who ‘don’t want to go to church anymore!’ Especially young adults between the ages of 20-33, although I personally know of many older than that (I am in my sixties, received a certificate for ‘forty years faithful pastoral service’ from my denomination, and I have absolutely no appetite for ‘going to church any more’).
SURPRISE no. 2. ‘Going to church’ is actually a physical and spiritual impossibility! If your name is John, and I say to you ‘John, go to John,’ what would your logical response be? Surely, i’I can’t go to John, because I am John! Now we all talk about ‘going to church,’ but maybe its time we stopped talking this way long enough for the impossibility of it all to sink into not only our speech but our thoughts! (as we think, so we are, says Proverbs). You can play a little game at home – whenever you as a parent get it wrong, put a R. 5-00 coin (SA currency) into a piggy bank and share the proceeds with your kidz after a little while – they’ll keep you on your toes and probably do quite well!
Of course, I am NOT saying that there is no place for special and even regular times of teaching and fellowship, communion and prayer (Acts 2:42) (Heb. 10:25). I AM saying that there is no way we can reduce this massive and mysterious thing called ‘Church’ to a mere institution, place and time – e.g. 9-10:30 am every week on a Sunday morning, depending on our denominational tradition!
SURPRISE no. 3. ‘Church’ is really all about being the church! (24/7 x 52)
It has always been God’s eternal purpose in Christ (being a ‘family God’: Father, Son and Spirit) to be with His people! (24/7 x 52 x eternity). This was His desire even before He created the universe and you/me. He expressed this desire again in Eden, where He loved to commune with the first two people He had created (Gen. 1-2). When Israel journeyed from Egyptian captivity to freedom in Canaan, He gave instructions for the building of a ‘tabernacle,’ a special kind of mobile tent in which He graciously manifested His presence in the midst of His people. Then came the temple -same thing. In the fullness of time Jesus His Son became man, ‘pitching his tent’ (lit. ‘tabernacling’) among us, ‘moving into the neighbourhood,’ and we beheld God’s glory in the person of Jesus (Emmanuel – ‘God with us’) in a way as never before (Jn. 1:14). Paul wrote about God and His NT people, ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people’ (2 Cor. 6:16, quoting three OT scriptures). John had an end-time vision of God living with His people eternally in the heavenly garden-city of Jerusalem, with no more pain and separation!
But note something far greater: it has always been God’s eternal purpose in Christ to be in His people! (24/7 x 52 x eternity) This truth is probably, in my and many others’ humble opinion, one of the most neglected of Bible truths for decades now – doctrinally, experientially and practically! As a number of seasoned believers have said to me on teaching this point, ‘How did we miss it all these years!’ We’ll take it from there in our next blog…