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1.02.2005    |    Unchurched for a day
Couldn't go to church today. Home with a head cold, and as much as I like sharing, this is one thing best kept to myself. Did a little praying, a little scripture reading, and felt not the slightest bit guilty.

So, the question must be asked: why ever go to church? Why not just engage in your own private spirituality? There are the obvious answers to be found in scripture, where we are warned against divisions in the church (and becoming one's own church would be the ultimate division, would it not?), but the essential reason is given in Matthew 18:20: "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." So we gather. So we build edifices. So we hire clergy. So we have liturgy (yes, even Baptists have ritual and liturgy, they just don't have to go to a central authority to publish it).

And yet one need not be in a literal church for Jesus to be among you. In fact, it often is distracting from prayer and thanksgiving to sit through a liturgy and sing (often atonal) hymns. Then there's the money thing. I know, I know -- it's all about stewardship, and how we are instructed to tithe, and it is a good thing to give in charity so that the church's good works may continue. Still, there is always something jarring to me about the weekly collections; something that smells just a wee bit, of money-changers in the temple. Not the least of my problems with the collection is that it is a reflection of the pagan rites of sacrifice at the altar.

Despite this, I continue to remain a member, and participate, in the church for a lot of reasons. One of the best, although perhaps selfish, is that I am safe in church. Surrounded by believers, I'm in my comfort zone. I needn't worry about offending anyone there with my prayers. They won't offend me with obscene remarks about the Lord. Trivial, perhaps. We all prefer to be among those who share our values. In church, I am surrounded by people who share the most important value of all.

So, being in church is comforting. And yet, I know that church isn't meant to be a comfort zone -- it is meant to challenge us to discipleship, to remind us that it isn't a museum for saints, but a hospital to repair sinners. So I'll keep on keeping on.

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About this site and the author

Welcome. My name is John Luke Rich, (very) struggling Christian. The focus here is Christianity in its many varieties, its fussing and feuding, how it impacts our lives and our society, with detours to consider it with other faiths (or lack thereof).

Call this blog my way of evangelizing on the internet.

Putting it differently, we're only here on this earth a short time. It's the rest of eternity that we should be most concerned about. Call it the care and feeding of our souls.

I was born Jewish, and born again in Christ Jesus over thirty years ago. First as a Roman Catholic; now a Calvinist by persuasion and a Baptist by denomination. But I'm hardly a poster boy for doctrinal rigidity.

I believe that Scripture is the rock on which all Christian churches must stand -- or sink if they are not so grounded. I believe that we are saved by faith, but hardly in a vacuum. That faith is a gift from God, through no agency on our part -- although we sometimes turn a deaf ear and choose to ignore God's knocking on the door.

To be Christian is to evangelize. Those who think it not their part to evangelize perhaps haven't truly understood what our Lord told us in Matthew 28. We must preach the Gospel as best we are able. Using words if necessary.

Though my faith waxes and wanes, it never seems to go away. Sometimes I wish it would, to give me some peace of mind. But then, Jesus never said that walking with Him was going to be easy...

Final note: I also blog as Jack Rich on cultural, political and other things over at Wrong Side of the Tracks

Thanks for stopping by.