It is now very common to hear people declare that they are quitting church, or that they quitted like ten years ago. The reasons for quitting church range from interpersonal conflicts to abuses, and more serious stuff like scandals, leadership failures, and believe it or not, political differences.
Whatever the reasons are, if you desire to remain in faith, worship and serve God, quitting church is a very blunt instrument.
To be clear, this is taking nothing away from the decades and centuries of religious and clergy abuse people have suffered around the world. Terrible atrocities have been committed on holy grounds with no regard for God. In most cases, the victims are still hurting because the perpetrators walked free or resting peacefully in their graves.
Where is Jesus?
Let's just say that the church has not and is not yet at its best. Same way the temple in Jerusalem was not the best congregation of saints, even in Jesus's time. But Jesus loved hanging around those imperfect institutions that were full of people He did not always agree with.
No wonder many of us who are "rational beings" can't stand the imperfections of the church anymore. We rather walk away even when Jesus is sitting right there in the temple with the rest of the imperfect folks.
Faith apathy is sweeping across the west like a tsunami. Congregations are thinning out and the clergy is struggling to recruit the younger generation.
The faith map of the world is now unrecognisable. Nations that once sponsored missions on a large scale are now far away from the same Jesus they once professed and preached around the world.
While the "church" was shifting powers and influence from Rome to England, and to other places, they may have left Jesus behind somewhere. The people became well acquainted with the buildings, beautiful cathedrals, programs, missions, and the bureaucracies behind the institutions. They knew and reverenced their priests, pastors, prophets, and deacons, but knew very little about the living Jesus.
The implications of leaving Jesus behind is that a lot of people in church or who attended church (including the clergy) didn't know Jesus, or maybe they did but not well enough. They had the theology of the virgin birth of baby Jesus but lacked the transforming power of the resurrected Christ. They celebrated rituals of His death and resurrection but lacked the power of His anointing.
No way forward without Jesus
Without Jesus, the faith journey cannot go the distance because Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2). Jesus's earthly parents travelled for a day before it occurred to them that Jesus was not with them (Luke 2:43-46).
Many of us in this generation are on spiritual journeys without Jesus on board. The solution was and is still to go back and find Jesus.
It took another three days of search before they found Jesus in the Synagogue. Clearly, they were not expecting Him to be there, otherwise, the Synagogue would have been the first place to go.
This may be your story too, like many people in our generation.
Sometimes, we think God has left the building because of the ugliness we see around. As a result, popular culture now dictates that we walk away.
Jesus may have been there in the Synagogue before you started walking away; but you didn't see Him because He was crowded out by the ubiquitous religious leaders and noisy programs, rituals, and traditions.
The ugly side of the church is bad. But what is worse is not to see Jesus working on that mess, and to walk away from God's workshop, spiritually alienated from God's purpose.
Back to the basics
It doesn't matter if the people in your own Synagogue (read churches) are right or wrong on issues and doctrines. Most times, they could be wrong, hypocritical, and judgmental.
As pretentious as the religious leaders of Jesus days were, Jesus still saw a need to worship and discuss God's laws in the temple.
The church is simply a body of believers. There is no church without the people. The people cannot be the church that Jesus wants as His bride if they are outside the body.
The church is better with you in it; and you are better in the church along with other imperfect people just like yourself.
Next, in Part 2 (click to go to Part 2), we examine why believers cannot operate effectively outside the body of Christ.
End of Part 1.
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