Do I Really Need The Church?

We sometimes hear people say they really don’t need to go to church to find God. They can find Him looking up to the night sky and feel a closeness to Him in that environment. Others will tell you that they live good lives and give to the poor and less fortunate quite well without a church association. Still others claim they had bad experiences in mainline churches and feel less conflicted with their own pursuits.

What are we to say to comments like that? We could say good for you, I hope you continue to be happy with that approach. Trying to convince someone otherwise is really a chase after the wind. Hopefully, they will find their fulfillment in their own way.

For most of us, more is needed. A good church creates an environment for its members to grow in. They should expect to receive positive messages on a regular basis that will lead them to grow in their spirituality into real life examples of their God right here on earth. How personal that experience with their God becomes depends on their individual desire and effort.

It helps if members understand and believe that a church is not a museum for saints but a hospital for sinners. With that attitude, they will more likely be open to receive the support and input that they need along the way.

Worshiping with the same people on a regular basis also provides a sense of being a member of something larger and more involved than trying to worship alone.

Being a member of a church with other members also exposes us to the various models of church. It opens us to diversity and expands our understanding of more of the whole of our God. Many people find it amazing that there are different models of church right there in their own church.

Some feel closer to God in the institutional model where creeds and beliefs are celebrated openly, and there is a progression of leadership. They feel more confident in a pastor who reports to someone higher. This can be called the order model and they feel more confident in that setting.

There is another model called the community model where they feel closer to God among His people. There is a confidence and a security available to them that they need to feel God’s presence. We know He told us that where two or three are gathered, there He is among them. This group sees Him in others.

Another model is referred to as the sacramental model where the signs and symbols quicken a sense of His presence for them. They want to have an active part in the service themselves. This is called the participation model.

Hearing God’s word proclaimed strongly in the service is another model that brings some people to feel God is present among them. They value His written word and will memorize portions of scripture that really speak to them. This is called the scripture model. They come alive in the service when scripture is read and enumerated.

Finally, there is the suffering servant model where people feel God’s presence most strongly when they are physically serving others. They will go to great lengths to serve others in need. They feel like they are the hands of God reaching out to help others.

All of these models are valid. All of them are authentic. Each represents one aspect of Jesus’ life when He walked the earth. None of us can faithfully live all of these models like Jesus did. We can represent one primary model and a portion of another. That’s why being in a church with all models represented and active is our best bet. A church is therefore at its strongest when all five models are present and at its weakest when only one model predominates.

Can we find God outside of an organized church as we discussed in the beginning? It is possible, but it is surely easier to find Him and worship Him in a church with all five models active and faithful. God is God and we are not. Recognizing the fullness of God and our inability to faithfully represent Him all by ourselves is a poverty of spirit needed to become the most that we can be, as pointed out by the sermon on the mount.