Here’s an ad for “The Church Channel” that was in a magazine that I recently received:
Now, I trust that any number of you knows where this is going and could write this blog yourself, so I’ll keep this brief (relatively – I just got through writing and needed to modify this statement).
“Our viewers attend church from the comfort of their own homes.” First of all, let’s agree that those pictured are NOT homebound church members who would attend if not physically unable to do so. This phrase being a primary tag line is obviously what caught my attention and whatever else the ad says is subservient to the primary statements.
Isn’t this the emphasis of these networks? They certainly speak to you as if you’re right there and they certainly ask you for your “offering” (or “seed” or whatever language is most current) as if you’re among the congregation. Is this even close to what the church had in mind? Perhaps I would not be so upset if the content in the vast majority of these programs weren’t so bad, but I think it would be close. There is a presence and proximity that is essential for a biblical church experience. No matter the content, it is a travesty to endorse our natural sinful inclination to remain independent, disconnected from biblical authority within biblical community.
Of course, they say that the programming is for those who have not yet found a church or are unable to attend one. Again, I am not speaking of the homebound, although I fear they watch the programming like those pictured. I am talking more about people like those pictured in the ad. Given that they do not appear homebound, do they really look like they want to go looking for a church? Is this really promoting the joy of finding a place of worship filled with messy, redeemed sinners who subject themselves to the regular exposition of God’s Word, having their worlds rocked by the conviction of the Holy Spirit through that Word preached? No. If you can have that much “fun” just sitting on your own couch and not engaged physically with the body of Christ local, then why even make the effort.
“24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 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
How can love and good works be stirred up in the “one another” that you’re never around? Isn’t that is what’s implied in the next verse? It is a command not to forsake the meeting together. There is an accountability that comes from attending and worshiping alongside another. Even in the classic “hypocrite” argument about those who go to church, there is something of a goodness (at the core, people act hypocritically because they feel that they should be different as the body of Christ – how you respond to that conviction is what makes you either an authentic believer or hypocrite).
Often the first thing a person will do when they start to neglect their walk with Christ is to forsake regularly attending church. That is why we should pay attention to those who are regularly absent. No, not to hunt them down; rather to care for them enough to inquire, pray and help them. We must love one another enough to say and do the hard thing (always in love).
One side note to this must be for college students. Too often college students find their church “satisfaction” in either floating around to individual events (picking and choosing among churches) or in the worship events of para-church ministries. Para-church ministries have their place, but that is NOT in the category of the church. Any good para-church ministry leader will promote this joyfully as well, because they also enjoy their church community.
The point is, the local church is messy and should be increasing in purity through time, though never perfect at all. One should find a church that faithful preaches the Word of God (not men’s ideas), rightly administers the ordinances and seeks to be healthy in leadership, prayer, evangelism, etc… Basically, a church that is seeking to be as biblical as possible.
So, find a group of people that you can really get involved with and humbly worship alongside them on a regular basis, even joining their ranks. I don’t have time to really address the biblical validity of local church membership, but suffice it to say that from Acts on through Revelation, you’d be hard pressed not to see the centrality of the local church in putting the glory of God in the gospel of Christ on display.