This overly-privatized version of Christian produced a high-appreciation for study Bibles and "devotional" books, but left me with a low-appreciation for the church. To me, church was the place where we got together to say hi, sing songs, listen to a sermon, and give money. And, of course, I was always told: "Bring a friend next week."
But all those things - showing up, singing, listening, giving, and bringing people - were all extras. They were optional add-ons to the "real deal," which consisted in my personal salvation, personal Bible reading, personal prayer time, and personal lifestyle choices. Is it any wonder, then, that this ecclesiology has given rise to the new fad of "internet church?"
Looking back, it's as if the script I was given was written for the individualistic heroes of Greek mythology. They would go it alone, display incredible personal strength, and come out on top.
A better script, in my present opinion, would have incorporated me into the life of the sacred community of the people of God, the gathering of saints. Saints know all-to-well that they are not alone, their strength is found in unity, and the one they follow redefined power by demonstrating service and submission. Therefore, Samuel Wells keenly notes, "The word 'hero' does not appear in the New Testament. The word 'saint' occurs sixty-four times" (Improvisation: The Drama of Christian Ethics, 43).
As the years have gone by, I have come to appreciate the church in ways that were unknown to me at the start of my Christian journey. Now I see that when the church gathers together to exercise its faith through baptism, prayer, singing, eucharist, sermon, generosity, ministry, and evangelism, it is testifying to the watching world that Christians are not called "heroes," but we are called "saints." And that is good enough for me.
The Household of God
Denominations & Unity