SERMON from 5-20-12: “Why Do I Have To Go To Church?”

1 Corinthians 12.14-23

 

14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect.

 

*This is the first sermon in a series I will be preaching through the end of June.

 

Questions My Neighbor Asked Me: Why Do I Have to Go to Church?

 

As a pastor who preaches every Sunday, I leave for church early in the morning. I leave before everybody even thinks about getting out of bed. The reason I say this is to give some props to those of you who are able to get their kids up and around to make it here on Sunday mornings. Specifically, I want to give my wife the credit she so richly deserves. Unfortunately, unless she takes time to read my blog this week, she will have no idea that I’ve even done this.

 

You see, I get me and just me up and going on Sunday mornings. My wife does that with herself and three kids. If you have kids–or your kids have grown up and left the nest–you also know what I’m talking about. There’s the whining and protesting, which might very well be followed up by a fit or a tantrum. Some might even describe them as psychotic episodes–or World War III. The point is that kids can sometimes be reluctant to make the effort to come to church on Sunday mornings.

 

I have no doubt that there are some of you out there who have had these experiences. There are, of course, variations on this idea, but it all centers around the problem of getting to church on Sunday morning. At some point, you may have even heard your child exclaim the rhetorical question back at you–after the fifth time you asked them to get out of bed–“Why do I have to go to church?”

 

Has someone ever asked you that question? It could have been your child–to which you probably replied, “Because I said so!” or “If you live under my roof, you will live by my rules!”

 

Have you ever asked yourself that question? It’s possible you’ve never had that thought. It’s also possible that you thought it and answered yourself, “It’s what I’ve always done.”

 

Has anyone else ever asked you that question? Maybe it’s a neighbor. There’s a better chance it was the non-churchgoing family member you always see and get into discussions with at your family get-togethers. If their question isn’t “Why do you still go to church?” it could have been–after talking with them about your concern for their not going to church–”Why do I have to go to church?”

 

That’s what we are going to be talking about for the next 7 weeks. We are going to be talking about the questions that Christians are asked about being a Christian. These questions can range from “Why do I have to go to church?” to “Why are Christians so obsessed with the end of the world?” Our neighbors–whether their actual neighbors or the broader idea of who is our “neighbor”–ask us questions about our faith, and it’s important that we get an idea about how we go about answering those questions.

 

The importance of this idea goes not just to our ability to talk about our faith at more than a fourth grade level, but to the future of the church–and how we engage those who have long since given up on the church.

 

The church–which includes not just the UMC–is slowly discovering that evangelism needs to be much more than a bake sale or car wash with the church’s name on it. The last forty years has seen the rest of the world leave the church behind. Not only not making the effort to get to church on Sunday morning, but the idea of church itself–and being Christian.

 

Have you ever heard anyone say, “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual?” That indicates that people have taken a look at organized religion–and the apparent dysfunction and destruction it has produced–and decided that they can believe in God, but they don’t want anything to do with the church. It’s like that quote from Ghandi. “I like your Christ. I don’t like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.” There is more to understanding this quote than what I’m going to get into this morning, but it points to something that our neighbors have come to use as their reason for no longer making church something that they do.

 

Now, there are people who have begun to think that it’s “church”–as it has come to be known today (with the building that house worship services and pot-luck dinners)–that is the problem. In response to this, they have turned to the home church movement. I read a story in the past year that talked about the growing prevalence of “home churches.” This is a movement that brings people together in their homes to “do” church. In small groups, they rotate host houses and share responsibilities that come with gathering together in a small community.

 

I was speaking with someone right here in Forest about their small, home church. He seemed very excited about the closeness of the group. And since there was no building which needed to be kept-up–or a pastor they have to pay–all the offerings they gathered could go to missions and ministries they cared about, without having to squabble too much over there those monies went. As a pastor being paid by a church, portions of that conversation were awkward.

 

The only thing wrong with this home church movement is, if it is doing its job of “making disciples,” than it will eventually have to become a church. You know that a home church is not doing its job is when it stays able to happen in your home.

 

Now that I’ve just given you an infomercial for the home church movement, let me begin to make the case for–and answer the question of–”Why do I need to go to church?”

 

Both the short and long answers to this question are one thing–community. From the time Jesus began his ministry–and called for the first disciples to follow him–the church has been about community. We have eaten together, worshipped together, grieved together, celebrated together and taken the gospel out to the world–together.

 

The book of Acts recounts the early church’s roaring start, thousands were baptized into the community of faith. Paul’s letters were written to churches that were living and serving together–learning to navigate exactly what it meant to take all of our differences and make them subservient God’s will. The importance of this community was made all the more important by the need to remain diligent in faith when faced with persecution from the authorities of the time.

 

This is not to say that there weren’t striking differences between believers and groups of believers. There would be problems caused by allegiances to this teacher or that. There would be arguments over what it meant to continue the older practices of their Jewish ancestors. “Can we eat meat which has been sacrificed?” “Can we still be Christians if we’ve been circumcised?” Of course–while the disagreements have changed–the fact that the church should gather together has never been called into question. The church-as-gathering-of-believers has never been challenged.

 

That’s what brings us to Paul’s argument from 1 Corinthians. He uses a metaphor which is graphic and effective. The argument doesn’t get more real or personal than when you begin to think about yourself. Paul says that your eye isn’t separate form your body just because it isn’t, itself, a body. Your hand isn’t not–sorry for the double-negative–a hand just because it has it’s own set of attributes and purposes. These things cannot exist separate from the body, because they are all needed for the body to work. Your eye cannot chew your food or get you from point A to point B, and neither can your foot pump oxygen through your blood vessels. Every part of your body is distinctive, but ceases to be useful when not used as part of a working set of body parts.

 

The same can and should be said about the church. Without greeters, people would be confused as to where they get information on what’s happening for the service. Without a pastor, the church lacks a leader and a large portion of its scriptural knowledge. Without musicians, worship can be lackluster. Without you guys, there’s no reason for me to be here. Each “part” of the “body” has its job, but all are useless without the rest.

 

You might ask, “What about all the junk that can happen in a church?” Part of the reason that there is such a large home church movement–12 million people, last I checked–is due in part to all the negativity that one can run into when friction happens in the church. Why not just say, “I can do this better all by myself” or “I can’t do this stuff anymore.”

 

The answer to that is–and here is some truth that will be difficult for some of us to hear–it’s not just about you. The church exists to be God’s “hands and feet” for the world. We are called to do the will of God. However, ineffective the church has been at anytime in its past or present, we are still intended to gather together in community and fulfill our will from God. Just as a hand must dig the hole and the eyes must see how deep it is, so must we all do our part as God intends. Those intentions are best fulfilled by the work of God’s church in God’s world. No offense to home churches.

 

It is not perfect, but it is the church. The source of whom is God. The originator of which is Jesus, and we are continuing our work–to and through this very day–by God’s spirit which still moves and works in us and through us.

 

So, how do we answer that question? It’s where God can best reach us. It’s where God can best transform us. It’s where God can best use us.

 

Thanks be to God.

 

AMEN

One comment on “SERMON from 5-20-12: “Why Do I Have To Go To Church?”

  1. Brave Badger
    June 7, 2012 at 3:56 PM #

    hey where did my comment from before go

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