I have had some people tell me that they hope I continue to refer to Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck's latest book, "Why We Love the Church" with some quotes and comments. My problem is that every page is quotable and worthy of comment. I point out some of them only to get readers to go and buy the book. I believe it is one of the most important books I have read in a while and one that is vitally needed in this day and age. I seriously encourage every Christian to read it so that we might be reminded of the importance of the local church and be reminded that this is what God has ordained for our spiritual growth.
As I quote a paragraph from the book below, remember that their point is to address the idea that since churches have problems and specifically they address those that "feel" their needs aren't being met by attending church so they opt out for whatever they think is better for them spiritually. They remind us of what I referred to the last time when they used the example of a bad marriage. Just because you aren't happy in your marriage doesn't mean you can ignore the institution of marriage for something you like better. The same goes for the church because this is what God has ordained that we join ourselves to in order to serve him; the Lord just hasn't given us other options.
They sum up the logic of these people with this statement, "If by your estimation church does not help you know God better, then you stop going to church. To continue to would be hypocritical". I thought Kevin DeYoung's answer to this was first rate. I quote part of it.
"But what if belonging to the church is more serious than, say, choosing whether the new laundry detergent is 'right for you'? What if your difficulty with church was God's means of sanctifying you and the church, instead of separating the two of you? What if we aren't always the best judge of what will help us most in 'living like Jesus'? What if, in addition to the church, we feel like marriage 'diminishes' our relationship with Jesus? Or that poverty doesn't seem to be good for us spiritually? Or our children get in the way of our walk with God? What if we need something to guide us that is more sophisticated, more sure, and less subjective than our own 'freedom filters'? And what makes us think that after nearly two thousand years of institutional church, Christians are suddenly free to jettison the church and try things on their own?"
Of course, one of the obvious problems with this kind of thinking is that it assumes you know better than God what kind of organization and atmosphere you need for spiritual development. Another thing that I find particularly upsetting is our inability to face difficulty without turning and running instead of letting difficult things "sanctify" us as they referred to. Is just because something is hard, difficult, humbling and uncomfortable mean we aren't to figure out a way to stick with it until the battle is won?
I am reminded of a story I hear about Abraham Lincoln and his turbulent marriage to Mary Todd. It was felt that living with a difficult woman gave him the tools needed to deal with his difficult generals. Had he or any of us decided that he didn't deserve to have to put up with such things and took the easy way out, we would suffer the loss of training and exercise needed to serve in other areas.
No church is perfect for sure, but to have a place to learn God's Word and to find support and fellowship with a people who love you no matter what is one of the great joys of life, for a Christian at least. It is also the primary place a Christian can find these things in this world and the only sure place where God will bless you to these ends. John McCain might be a maverick but there are no mavericks in the church, only assemblies. A body member that is cut off, dies; it doesn't become stronger.