I’ve often heard people unhappy with their church experience make statements like, “I can do church on my own. I don’t need church. Church is outdated. Church is between me and God.” I’ve wondered in the past if they were right.
From a spiritual point of view, church is a metaphysical concept that doesn’t require a human institution for expression. Right? Or maybe not…at least in the short run. Man is also a spiritual idea that doesn’t require a physical body for expression, yet I seem to have one…for now…while I grow into a higher understanding of true identity…
Finally, I found resolution to this quandary when I realized that church on earth is like a team sport. It takes more than one person to have the experience.
Take tennis for instance.
I like to play tennis, but it takes one or more people to enjoy the activity. I can’t play tennis by myself. I can hit the ball against a wall by myself. I can practice serves by myself. But I cannot play tennis by myself. It requires another person!
The same rule applies to church.
You can’t do church by yourself. Church is not a loner activity. It requires more than one person to have a church experience. Without another person to “hit the ball back and forth with,” church is an empty concept for the human mind to muse.
Jesus Christ taught the two Great Commandments: Love God with your whole heart, and love thy neighbor as thyself. Loving God with your whole heart is an individual activity. You can do that at home or sitting on a mountain peak looking out to the vast horizon. But loving your neighbor requires interaction with others. It means sharing truth with others, caring for them, loving them, and healing them.
Church is about loving God with your whole heart and then showing that love to your neighbor in terms that make a positive difference. One cannot “go to church,” without actively loving their neighbor and improving their lives.
Jesus did not tell his students to separate themselves from humanity, isolate themselves in a cave, and study and pray alone with God all the time. Yes, he certainly set the example for needing time alone in quiet with God. But the bulk of his ministry was helping others, and that’s what he encouraged his followers to do.
Church is many working together as one for a common cause. It’s a team effort to combat the evils of the world in one Mind, in one Spirit, in one Force of Good. Church is about accomplishing together what one cannot do alone.
There is a need for practical expressions of church in the world today that emulate the divine model, but humbly acknowledge a far distance to go in understanding before the human institution is no longer needed.
Feeling the love of God alone at home is one thing, and a good thing. But going to a neighbor suffering in pain, sitting by their bedside, praying for them, and watching the pain go away, is an even greater event. It’s an even greater experience than one can have by themselves.
Church is about many working together as one. And you can’t do that in self-induced solitary confinement!