JOHN PEARRELL: Church offers us chance to strengthen our faith by being with each other

I've been writing on the subject of the church in these past few columns.

It seems that we live in an age where many who profess that they are Christians see no reason to attend church. I hear it all the time from various people. "Oh, I worship with my family at home." Or "I get my church from watching Dr. So and So on television." Or "I worship on the golf course or in my hunting stand... I don't need to be in church to worship."

In my columns, I've attempted at least to give you something to think about, if that is your approach.

Let me give you an illustration that I first saw through the Internet. I don't' know who wrote it but below is my adaptation of it for your consideration.,

A number of years ago, a man became upset over an issue that arose in his church. He did what many do; he simply stopped attending church.

After a few weeks had passed, the pastor decided to call on the man. It was a bitterly cold winter night and the pastor found his parishioner sitting in front of a blazing fire.

The man guessed the reason for the pastor's visit, and he was prepared to let him know exactly why he wasn't in church, why he planned never to return and why he didn't need to return. He had his Bible and a hymnal and that was all he needed.

The pastor however, came in, sat before the fire and didn't say a word. Instead, he just sat in his chair mesmerized by the warmth of that fire and the dance of it's flames.

Then, without saying a word, the pastor got up, took the tongs sitting by the hearth, reached into the fire, a removed an ember that was glowing bright orange. He placed that ember to one side and sat down again in silence.

His host watched all of this taking place, wondering what the pastor was up to. Quickly the glowing ember began to fade, and, before long, it went completely out. At this point the pastor rose again, placed that now dead ember back into the fire, and once again it began to glow a bright orange.

Glancing at his watch the pastor thanked his parishioner for inviting him in and sharing the warmth of his fire.

Not a word was said about his absence from church, but, as the Pastor reached the door ready to leave, his host said with a tear running down his cheek, "Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon. I shall be back in church next Sunday."

In the days of my earliest ministries, I was a camp director. One of the highlights at each camp was a bonfire the last night of camp. I remember sitting out in the dark forest watching the embers rise into the night sky.

Some traveled quite high, while others quickly faded. I recall wondering what made the difference between those that soared and those that died.

I think I know the answer. The embers that soared high into the night sky were the embers that stayed in the heat waves produced by the fire. The embers that quickly faded, hardly making it past the dancing flames, were the ones that missed the heat wave.

So it is with you. Are you trying to live the Christian life on your own? I will tell you, the joy of your faith will soon die out and you will be left with a cold, lifeless faith.

But get into the heat wave, stay in contact with the fire of others, and you can soar. That's how God designed it.

From the very beginning, He said, "It is not good for man to be alone." That's true in life and it is true in the Christian's life as well. We need one another.

Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington, GA.. For more information visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org