Have you ever had a conversation like this? “I don’t need a church to worship God. I worship better out in nature, rather than cooped up in a building.” I would say this is an in-house issue, but clearly they want to take it out of the house. Jokes aside, this is primarily going to be from someone who is, or at least claims to be, a Christian believer who has some issue with organized religion. I think it’s very rare that a person making this claim actually spends a great deal of time worshiping God out in nature. In my experience it’s usually more of an excuse to avoid the church and have more time to themselves. But is this actually a problem? How should we respond to a statement like this, or something similar about the need for organized religion?
The defense of a traditional church gathering I believe can be narrowed to three key points.
1. Focused Worship
Maybe there are people who don’t like to be cooped up in a building and just want to spend their time outside. Okay, I’ll give the benefit of the doubt that this isn’t just an excuse. But spending time in nature, appreciating God’s creation, is not a substitute for a focused worship service. In a church service there is the singular goal of worship with minimal distractions. True, you can read your Bible and sing praises to God on your own, but how often will you?
2. Christian Community
There are few things as dangerous to a Christian as isolation. Whether this be Christian students being alone in a secular university, a lone Christian member of a family, or simply a regular person with doubts who doesn’t know where to take them. If we don’t have a Christian community, it often damages or destroys even a strong faith.
The community of a church also gives accountability. A lone person trying to figure everything out on their own can often lead to some less than orthodox ideas. Learning from an educated pastor and studying with fellow believers helps to keep the theology in check and minimize problems.
3. Cultural Impact
There are things we can only accomplish as a group. Our culture has largely forgotten the positive impact the church has had on the world. We focus on the negative while ignoring the positive. How many times a week do you hear Christians criticized for their hypocrisy, oppression, or bigotry? But when was the last time you heard the church praised for building hospitals, starting universities, or giving foreign aid? There are good things organized religion has contributed to this world. A single person can help, but will almost never achieve as much as even a small group of believers working together.
True, we don’t need a building to worship God. But we do need each other. One person on their own cannot be the body of Christ.
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