It almost seems as if there is nothing new under the sun. It almost feels as if we've heard this story before: Leaders in the church world, who built their empires and fortunes off of the church who say we don't need the local church anymore - that it's become irrelevant.
It's a common statement in our generation - people who say they "love Jesus, but hate the church." Or at least don't feel very excited about the church. Jesus seems cool. The local churches they've been to seem very boring.
But if the church is Jesus' bride as the Bible tells us, it's impossible to love one and hate the other.
Can you imagine telling your friend - you're awesome, but I hate your wife, she's boring and irrelevant to me. Really?
That friendship would end fast. And while you may still feel how you feel - your friend wouldn't feel very liked at all, because you hated on the most important thing in their life - part of their very flesh and soul, and the greatest joy in their life.
Don't get me wrong. Sometimes going to church is difficult, even painful. Here are some vulnerable thoughts on why we must choose to love the church, if we claim to love Jesus:
1. It's just an hour a week
While church is more than just about a weekly service, we are talking only 1 hour a week worshiping and listening to a sermon. Even if the music is really bad, and the sermon is poor, it's just 1 hour.
I can't help but wonder how anyone who really loves Jesus would be unwilling to give 1 hour out of 168 hours in their week to Christ's bride.
If it's important to God (and he says so in His Word), then it should be important to me if God is important to me.
2. It's okay if it doesn't feel ok
There are times for all of us, when church doesn't feel fun or exciting, and sometimes it even feels painful, like going to the dentist. (But all of us know the dentist is important even though it's painful. Same with the church.)
It's okay to not feel okay, but we should go to church anyways - those might be the times we need it the most. Don't base your faith on your feelings. Feelings will come into line by God's power and grace in our life over time, and we will realize God knows best - every time.
Yes, we need to fight for joy in obeying God's commands, but sometimes this is a process. Some seasons church is a great joy to us, and life-giving community, and other seasons it feels like we are carrying a cross.
But shouldn't this happen sometimes? Jesus said if we wanted to follow him, we would have to pick up our cross daily. There will be seasons of our life where following Jesus feels like we are carrying a cross. Dying to self feels that way.
If we cut out or avoid the parts of our Christian life where we feel like we are carrying our cross, we will be immature.
Granted, some people make too much of their Christian life about sacrifice, but that doesn't mean we should avoid it all together. There's no version of the Christian life where we get out of carrying our cross.
3. We all play a role
When we accept Christ, we become part of the Church, and we each play a role. This means we don't need to accept church as normal - we can have a hand in changing and shaping it's future - in making it meaningful to our own lives, and the lives of those around us.
That said, church gatherings through thousands of years have been the same - gathering with other believers to worship together and listen to God's word together. These groups of believers did their part to better the world around them.
We live in the most diverse generation of church options ever - it is sad if we generalize two billion Christians around the world who gather at millions of churches of all shapes and sizes as if there's not an option to choose from we would enjoy. As a professor back in Bible college told us, "there are many flavors of ice cream to choose from."
4. It's really a trust issue
Really, going to church is a trust issue. Do I really believe God has my best intentions in mind? When God tells me to do something, do I believe he's doing it to get on my nerves, or to save my life?
Going to church is more than just about community. It is God's lifeboat for a dying world.
It is his bride.