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JOHN PEARRELL: Being a church member is an important part of being Christian

My wife and I were channel surfing (that's the only surfing I know how to do) when we came across a program that looked somewhat interesting. We paused on that channel but were quickly horrified as a man began to be ripped apart by some invisible or at least off-camera creature. It was grotesque and the channel was quickly changed.

What in the world does an introduction like that have to do with a religion column? Glad you asked.

As I thought about the horror of that brief clip, I began to wonder if that is how God feels when he looks at the church today.

Think of it, the church is described as "The Body of Christ" in passages like 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, and her members like various parts of the body. When one goes missing, the body is, quite frankly, crippled and, if we're honest, eventually the severed member shrivels up and dies.

I am not talking here about people who leave one church and go to another because of some issue that may arise. What I am talking about are those members who are absent from the body and have not reattached themselves to another body.

There is an alarming trend in Western Christianity that sees the church as unnecessary or perhaps even detrimental to one's spiritual development.

On Sunday, I spoke on the fact that today we are more connected but more isolated than ever before in history. Those friends on Facebook, they are not your real friends. We were made for social interaction, not cyber interaction.

When God created Adam and observed that it was not good that he was alone (see Genesis 2:18), He didn't solve the issue by giving him a computer; he gave him a helper, a mate, someone he could relate to on an intimate, physical and emotional level.

You who have chosen electronic church as your place of worship, that is not how God meant it to be. We are, by design, social creatures who need face to face social interaction. In the church, we usually call this "fellowship."

Can you be a Christian and not active in a local body of believers? Yes, but you can't be an obedient one that way. Hebrews 10:25 in the Contemporary English Version reads, "Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord's coming is getting closer."

I wonder if God looks at that disconnected hand or disconnected foot, or arm or leg, or nose or ear, laying out there alone and has the same reaction I had when body parts started flying in that movie we paused on. We didn't stay on that channel thinking, "My this is interesting;" we quickly switched channels because there is nothing interesting or mentally healthy about seeing a dismembered body.

It is my opinion that the same is true of those members of the church who have removed themselves from the body.

You may disagree with my assessment, and you know what? That's OK.

But you know that what I am saying is true. A limb severed from the body only has so long before it will die unless it is reattached. That is a physiological fact. Wishing it were another way doesn't change that.

In a similar way, you and I both know that once a Christian is severed from the body of Christ it is only a matter of time before they shrivel up and die spiritually. They lose interest in the things that once compelled them and they become critical of the very thing that once encouraged them.

You may disagree with my observation on that, but the spiritual facts speak for themselves. Wishing it were another way doesn't change it.

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