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Give church a try
June 6, 2011
by Pastor Bill Baldwin, Prairie Community Church, UCC, Lester Prairie

There’s an old song that has the line, “people, people who need people, are the luckiest people in the world.” I wholeheartedly believe this is true. People are social creatures, and we really do need each other.

There was a time when the church was the place where people congregated to be with each other. Now, most churches are a shadow of what they used to be, barely hanging on.

So, what’s the deal?

I’m a big fan of Facebook, email, and all kinds of social networking, but it doesn’t take the place of people being together in the same room, side by side, for a common purpose – and I don’t mean at the bar, drinking beer. I mean sitting in the pews as fellow human beings, learning and praying, and singing together.

I believe our world is worse for not sharing this common commitment to worshipping together, and I don’t just say this as a pastor. I say this as an ordinary person who needs people for my health and well-being.

I’ve been to concerts and ball games where there are 18,000 or more people gathered together, and it is a powerful experience. But it is not the same as getting together week after week with people we know, or at least recognize, and sharing a time when we are built up together for a new week ahead.

Sometimes people tell me that they truly believe in God, believe in Christ, but that they don’t need the church to be good Christians. I strongly disagree. Christianity is a communal affair, and being part of a body of believers is essential to our spiritual growth. Christ, created the church because we need a place to connect with others to focus on the deeper meaning and purpose in life.

Maybe you don’t believe the church is exciting enough, or that it’s full of hypocrites? Or, maybe you think you have your own ideas and you don’t believe everything the church teaches?

Well, I believe you have a brain to think and decide for yourself, and you don’t have to necessarily believe everything the church teaches. But, it is still the best thing going for bringing people together to look at their spiritual life and grow in God’s love.

Wherever we currently are in our beliefs, it is still right and good to be affiliated and active in a local congregation. It’s about having a healthy discipline that brings us together with others who are in the same boat, dealing with the same everyday stuff, trying to create a better world and to make sense of a confusing world.

I am challenging those who say they don’t need church to come back, or come for the first time, and give it another try. Commit to going for a couple of months or more, and see what happens. Just because you don’t have to go to church doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. There are lots of things in life that we don’t have to do that would be very good for us if we did.

And I am challenging the churches of today, as well. It is imperative that they be willing to open up, grow, and change to make room for all those who decide to come to church. It absolutely means that as a church community, we have to reach out to have new faces join us, and make them feel welcome. And we absolutely have to listen to the new people who come, and give them a voice and a vote in making the church meaningful to each new generation.

Church is not just a little social clique that is for and about the few people who are within the inner circle. The local church has the huge mandate to go into all the world and proclaim the good news, while gathering in all who are looking for life that satisfies. This absolutely means giving up old, outdated ways of being “the church.”

Speaking as a pastor, my heart breaks for the state of the local church today. I am so grateful for those who continue to prioritize their faith and remain faithful members of a local church. But I am so sad that many people have abandoned the faith that has sustained over two millenniums of people and has brought so much good to the world.

Blessings and peace be unto you all. And may God richly bless your life. Amen.