A few days ago I came across the quip: “sitting in a pew no more makes you a Christian than sitting in the driveway makes you a car.”
I get it, it’s quite clever. I interpret it to be a sort of broadside against the perceived assembly of hypocrites who simply attend church out of a misguided sense of religion by osmosis. That if one thinks all it means to be an adherent to the teachings and example of Jesus Christ is to simply “show up” then they are sorely mistaken.
This is true, and a sentiment I would encourage heartily. But there is still more to this story.
What of those, who in stark contrast to the aforementioned, would lay claim to a robust and sincere faith… while yet rarely, if ever, joining in regular fellowship? In short, I might call myself a “millionaire” but it does little to increase the amount of zeros on my bank statement. Indeed, if I am to call myself something as lofty as that, should I not at least have the funds to justify such a claim?
So too is it for the occasional Christian, the “Christian in name only” who glibly mocks the players from the safe vantage of the grandstands.
“I used to go to church,” you might argue, “But I got tired of all the drama.” Or the old chestnut: “There’s too many hypocrites there,” and my personal favorite: “I don’t need to go to church to worship God.”
For all the liberties that Christians are permitted in our holy writ (and there are many), isolation simply is not one of them. We are not granted the permission to experience life being deliberately cut off from one another. Of course, I’m not saying you have to go to any certain church. I’m not even using the tedious old segue of inviting you to my own church. But I can say that the Christian way of life is meant to be lived in community with others.
To forsake the communal nature of the church and Christ’s call for unity is to ignore an essential teaching of Scripture. Repeatedly in the letters of Apostle Paul it is abundantly clear that a large part of the Christian way of life centers upon being made new, adopted into a new family and a creature remade in the image of our Lord. Therefore, to be a Christian is to a member of the body of Christ.
Still, I fear this language is lost on many of us here in the contemporary West, where many of us are “members” of social groups and civic clubs.
My position at this newspaper assures my membership in the Texas Press Association, but I pay no dues and attend no special meetings. Short of a general professionalism and adherence to the basic conventions of my trade, there is little binding me to the TPA other than a glossy card with my name and photo.
But to apply this toward the deeper and far-reaching sphere of the community of faith that is The Church is to utterly miss the mark. Too often I behold the wreckage caused by our modern American notion of the autonomous self that has replaced the Biblical community as a medium by which God often illustrates the beauty of our religion.
We are members of Christ in the same way that the eye, ear, hand, and foot are members of the body. We are not self-sufficient unto ourselves, but meant to “do life together” and live by the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.