I glared out of the second-story window. The lights of an ambulance flashed in front of the building next to the one I was in. Several medics stood in a circle in front of the entrance door of the office at the bottom of the building I was observing. They covered their faces in masks and they wore gloves, yet none of them dared enter.
“A woman has collapsed with a heavy cough,” someone behind me said.
“Corona,” someone else responded.
“But why aren’t any of them helping her? She could die and they are just standing there!” My question fell unanswered. If trained medical professionals didn’t know how to respond, then how was someone like me supposed to handle it? Two days later the country went into a full lock-down.
It was the second time in my life since Jesus called me back to Him, that I felt I needed a community of bible confessing Christians around. The moment the government told me I could no longer meet with other Christians, was the moment I realized this was something I longed for.
How good it would have been if I could just have a group of people to meet and pray with. But admittedly, this was tough.
I used to think, that Jesus and I could walk hand in hand, but we don’t need to get involved with any of those other Christians. Who needs to listen to a preacher every Sunday morning when you can read the bible by yourself? What does the preacher know that I can’t learn directly from the Holy Spirit, or find on YouTube? Who needs to associate with a bunch of hypocrites who think that attending church each Sunday, has now made them holier than thou?
I could never quite pinpoint why I had such a nauseating dislike for everything related to the church. I now realize that my fragile belief, when I first chose Jesus at age 13 could never have survived in the circumstances I was facing. Especially in the church, I had been brought into two years later. Under the false teachings and unexemplary way, the church leadership were living their life, my faith withered and died. Apathy and depression followed the condemnation which caged me.
I was looking for the unconditional love that can only be found in Jesus, but it was defiantly not to be found in the church, well not the one I had been a member of. Subsequently, I thought all churches were the same.
The legalistic approach many churches follow these days have people running for the hills. As one of my favourite songs during this time of my life put it:
“Take me to church
I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife
Offer me that deathless death”
According to Hozier, who wrote and sings this secular hymn, the lyrics describe a sexual relationship of which a legalistic religion made the author to feel shame. People associate this Grammy award-winning track, as an attack on religious institutions to be more tolerant towards gay relationships. It is not within the frame of this post for me to address this specific question, however, this song is a powerful outcry of those hurt by religion.
It breaks my heart, since shame and condemnation has freed no one. It is only the truth that can do that.
Then Jesus said to those Jews who had believed him, “If you continue in my word you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”(John 8: 31-32 LEB)
Emerging ourselves in the word of God will help us recognize the truth which will convict us and bring us to repentance. This then will set us free from our sin, whichever sin that may be.
When Jesus resurrected my faith, He eventually wanted me to join a church. I was fighting Him on this point. After several months, I reluctantly agreed to go sit in a building each Sunday morning. I did so out of obedience.
“I can work with that,” He said.
I should have known that I was in for a change. It would have been easier, had I not gone kicking and screaming. But since I refuse to live my life without Him, off we went.
It took a good two years, Covid-19 and some other stuff, before I found myself somewhat integrated into the community, and now fully realizing why He wants it this way.
Jesus is the head of the church. Like a good shepherd, he cares, cleanses nourishes and protects his sheep. One way he does this by us submitting to His word. Another is that He surrounds us with fellow brothers and sisters, who pray for and with us, and also importantly correct us.
However, there is a good reason Jesus tells us to first remove the bulk from our own eye before we remove the speck of dust in our brother’s eye. (Matthew 7 vs 4&5) These verses do not tell us we are not to remove the dust in our brother’s eye, but that we should look towards the sin in our own life first. Once we have done this, we are better equipped to speak the truth in love.
If I may paraphrase a part of the sermon, my pastor recently gave, after quoting Romans 8 vs 1. He was talking about standing on God’s promises.
(See there, not all pastors are horrible.)
Jesus did not die on a cross so that you and I can have just another religion. Jesus died so that we can have a relationship with God. Our goal becomes to get to know Him better. Like any good relationship, this is a two-way street. As C.S Lewis puts it, the initiative to show himself to us lies on His side.
“God can show Himself as He really is only to real men. And that means not simply to men who are individually good, but to men who are united together in a body, loving one another, helping one another, showing Him to one another.”C.S. Lewis: Mere Christianity
Global statistics show that in-person church attendance has been dwindling, even before COVID-19 broke out. So why should you as a child of God care about church attendance? And perhaps you feel that while you say yes to Jesus, you just can’t say yes to church.
Have you ever wondered why so many Christians lose their faith? In most cases, the answer is simple. When there is no spiritual growth, most people simply drift away.
Why is there no spiritual growth?
Many believe that faith is a deeply personal thing. What can I get from the service? What new things did I learn? What did I enjoy about the service? Which songs did I like and which ones not?
Then we got hit with COVID-19. The restrictions have forced many churches to use online platforms to broadcast their service. Now with all this online convenience right at my fingertips, I can watch whoever I like from virtually anywhere I am, at any which time that suits me.
Due to COVID-19, it is now more than ever become all about me, myself and I.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching sermons and Godly content online. However, we can’t approach God with an attitude of, what can I get out of this? Instant gratification, and no real relationship or connection. Simply put, this is just not the way that Jesus intended it.
What’s more, we can’t rely on our ever-changing mood. This thing of today I feel like this, and tomorrow I feel like that.
“Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed.”C.S Lewis – Mere Christianity
God asks you to make a choice for Jesus. It is a choice you need to remind yourself of every day. It is tremendously helpful if you have a bunch of people who will help remind and encourage you.
This is why forming friendships within a small group has become so important. A bunch of people you can pray with and exchange your life with. A bunch of people you can discuss the word of God with. People you can trust, because there is mutual respect. People you know will speak the truth to you in love. People for whom you will do the same. Each one of you bringing to the table something the other needs.
COVID-19 has caused many of us to lose our connection to the Christian community. Christians need community and fellowship. While this may not necessarily look like the traditional model of attending church each Sunday, churches are uniquely equipped to facilitate community-building activities and groups. And if I may go a step further, if you attend the Sunday service with the right heart, as in you expect God to speak to you, this is a good way He can do so. Most good preachers will pray before they prepare their sermon. Then, the Holy Spirit may lay something on His heart specifically for you. However, God is not limited in the way He speaks to us – and He will often choose many different ways to do so.
I set out this post asking, is going to church still relevant in 2021? If sitting in a building, each Sunday is your idea of going to church, and if you think this will somehow dissolve all your sin, well then no – this is no longer relevant or needed. However, if you realize that the church is not a building but the body of Christ, which is made up of fellow brothers and sisters; If you realize that it’s not about what you get out of it but how you can contribute; Yes, then going to church is not only relevant, but it is severely needed.
There’s just so much I can cover in a single post. Over the next few weeks, I will look at further related questions and topics. I’m calling this blog series Losing my religion.
Is there something specific on your heart regarding this post?