Summary: Myth: I Don't Need Church
Continuing in our series entitled "Myths." Today an idea that may be a little more common and expressed a little more openly...
Myth: I Don't Need Church
This idea might be expressed in similar ways with a little more subtly and nuance...such as:
• I don't need a church to have a relationship with God.
• I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian.
• If I have God, I don’t need people.
• Just Jesus and me is all I need.
As a pastor speaking you may think I have little sympathy for such an idea... that I simply want to dismiss it. Well I do have sympathy. I have felt some of the feelings that likly are behind such a thought.
In early seasons in my life I began to do my own thing. And through the years I have known enough disappointments to face disillusionment. We might feel disillusioned with hypocrisy...disillusioned with the limited forms and formality by which the church seems bound....disillusioned with the so many things that seem attached to the church that shouldn't be.
We have created an idea about what "church" refers to that is limited. There are some false ideas about the role of weekly gatherings in relationship to our relationship with God that we need to consider...
....so next week we are going to consider this myth: "All I Need is the Church."
But today I want to focus on what is generally implied by the idea that: "We don't need the church."
I believe that what we will find is that if we consider what is beneath this idea...is that the feeling reflects something very real... but the conclusion is wrong. The symptom may be real...but the diagnosis is wrong.
I think in many respects the idea that we don't need church is a reflection of our times....more than we realize. Before we can engage this idea we have to consider what is shaping our whole way of being individuals in this world.
So lets consider...
The Influences that Shape Our Relationship as Individuals to Community
Individualism - the spirit of our culture
By "individualism"...I am not simply referring to being individuals. The "ism" is referring to something that happens to the true nature of being individuals when that individual quality becomes the all defining claim to our personhood.
We are a culture deeply formed out of an individualistic ethos. We are a culture shaped by escaping the tyranny of other nations...of kings and state and dictators. And we pulled off a political freedom few have done so well.
> But it has always left us vulnerable to a false sense of what it means to be individuals.
We can be filled with a sense of absolute autonomy and self-existence.
We are such an individualistic culture that while we think we realize it, we don't really see how defining it is because it is the air we breathe... the ocean we swim in.
We can feel the tension in the mass of movies which depict the hero who operates on his or her own... often a loner (which is appealing... as they stand apart from the common masses)...and yet the storyline will usually also bring the inspiration of teamwork coming into play. (example - Avengers) It reveals how much we think that the coolest person is the one who doesn't conform...and yet we know that the most it's only in helping others that the hero can really be a hero.
The delusion doesn’t start with “I don’t need church”, the delusion starts with “I don't need other people. I'm safer without relying on others."
We were created for emotional, spiritual, and physical intimacy.
Today...we have new layers added upon our general independent spirit...
Consumerism - the role we have been trained to serve
Throughout nearly all of human history... economic exchange was rooted primarily on need. Food was exchanged based on needs. Only in the last century has that begun to dramatically change and now our western culture is based almost entirely on relating not as co-producers...but as consumers of competing goods and services. We don't join up at the marketplace of mutual needs...but rather we are defined and divided as consumers of wants.
> As we've noted over the years... community is never found in being consumers but in being contributors.
For years I have been drawn to things that are "user friendly"...
...and sought for us to be a "user friendly" church I've never stopped to consider what it says about how I see us in relationship with each other. What does the idea of "User friendly" imply? We are "users."
Technology - the means to meet some "form" of needs without our full presence and personhood.
Technology has made direct relationship unnecessary to still get inspiration and knowledge...and worship.