If you’ve read any of the newsletters I’ve sent in 2020, you know I have a lot of great things to say about Drew Coffman. He’s an awful smart chap, and seems to have that magical touch with whatever he makes (videos, podcasts, websites…). But he said something a few weeks back that sat wrong with me.
A real bummer about not attending a church is that when you tell that to Christians they assume you’re a burnout.
What if you just…don’t…like church? The fact that we’ve so intermingled the concept of “person of faith” and “church-goer” is troubling
I’m not here to tell you Drew’s experience is wrong — who am I to judge another’s servant? But his experience is far different than mine.
I didn’t grow up in the church, or a community of faith, or whatever else you may want to call it. I grew up in a very loving home where the golden rule was taught, if not always lived out. Certainly not by me — I was pretty much a big jerk most of my younger years.
But as my mistakes piled up and I came to the end of myself, to start to seek God, I finally learned that Christ was the only way forward. And that included going to “church”.
Big C, little c
Now I don’t know exactly what Drew means when he says church. There’s church (the building you go to, or the event that happens on Sunday (sorry, Adventist friends)), and then there’s the Church. This is why words are so important, and I so wish I could visit Drew in person, maybe at the café he built a couple years back, and we could discuss this face to face. But the internet does ok in a pinch.
But I’m pretty sure Drew means little c church. I’d bet he really likes big C church, the fellowship comprised of the children of God spread across the globe and across time. It’s a pretty important group if you are a follower of Christ. It’s not a place, but the spirit of God indwelling in hundreds, thousands, millions(?) of people.
And the Bible is pretty clear that if we are a follower of Christ, we’re to spend time with others like us. If you've spent any time in the North American church, you've likely heard this passage in Hebrews 10 many times:
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. (ESV)
Yeah, it's an author speaking to a persecuted group of people at a specific point in time. Yet, does it not speak a truth that we need to hear today? How easy is it for us in our culture of abundance to choose to holiday or enjoy recreational activities instead of meeting with others of our faith? To be encouraged by others, to hear their own confessions of faith? This is why I love witnessing a baptism so much
Maybe what Drew means is that he dislikes the trappings and traditions of the little c church. Which is understandable — much of what we do is truly tradition and maybe the commandment(s) of men, not from God. Plenty of people have tired of the traditions and tried other ways to not neglect the gathering together. Maybe it's a house church. Maybe it's primarily a small group atmosphere.
Whatever the case, my experience has been that nothing can replace being with others to worship God, to join in the public reading of God's word, and some Bible-based preaching. I didn't grow up in a church, and in my early years of seeking God, I thought I could seek him on my own. I didn't need a group of people to help me with that. Maybe that's a little of how Drew feels.
But I learned over the years that is not the case. There is great power in hearing the testimony of others. There is so much opportunity to learn and grow when you spend time around people of ethnicities and generations different than your own, but grounded in the same hope. And there is so much blessing in serving a group of people.
Even when they do things that frustrate you.
Over the years, I've been reminded of these truths several times. We'd go away for week long a holiday and leave on a Saturday or Sunday. By the time we get back to our normal routine, we haven't been to church in three weeks. But once there, as I hear people around me lifting up their voices in praise, I remember. I need this.
I'm guessing Drew agrees with a lot of what I've said. But whatever the case, I know whatever detriments there are with going to little c church, belonging to and fellowshipping with a local group of believers is essential to the being a child of God.