There are many in the Christian community today who are not convinced that they need to be connected to the body of believers; the church. They think that all you need is the Bible, their own space, maybe a TV preacher occasionally and some good books, and they think they’ve got it made.
A member of a certain church, who previously had been attending services regularly, suddenly stopped coming to church. After a few weeks, the pastor decided to visit. The pastor found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire.
Guessing the reason for his pastor’s visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a comfortable chair near the fireplace and waited.
The pastor made himself at home but said nothing. In the grave silence, he contemplated the dance of the flames around the burning logs.
After some minutes, the pastor took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth, all alone. Then he sat back in his chair, still silent.
The host watched all this in quiet contemplation. As the one, lone ember’s flame flickered and diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more. Soon it was cold and lifeless.
The pastor glanced at his watch and realized it was time to leave. He slowly stood up, picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow, once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.
As the pastor reached the door 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.”
Whether you realize it or not, if you disconnect yourself from the people of God, eventually you are going to find yourself disconnected in your faith and in your hope. As a pastor, where I find most hopeless, discouraged believers are not among the connected, but among the disconnected.
If you look at Facebook and Twitter, what you’ll find is a myriad of disconnected people desperately trying to connect with someone. I mean why else would you be telling the world where you went for dinner or what activity you just came from or were going to?
My theory on what we see generally on Facebook and Twitter are isolated people desperately trying to connect while remaining physically separate from others.
That same phenomenon is happening in Christianity today.
I am finding an increasing number of people arguing that a relationship with Christ should be personal not institutional. If you’re wondering what that means, they are saying, “You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” In fact, many argue today that church is a positive hindrance to spirituality.
Yes, you can be a Christian and not be active in a local fellowship of believers, in a church. But, you cannot be an obedient Christian that way, and you won’t be a productive Christian that way.
The writer of Hebrews put it this way, “Let us not neglect our church meetings, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25, The Living Bible)
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information, visit the Gateway Web site at www.gatewaycommunity.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.