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Why should I be a part of your church?
The Treachery of Images (La trahison des images), René Magritte,1928–29
Why should I be a part of your church? At my cell’s meeting the other night, that is what we were pondering. If God is bigger than the organization of Circle of Hope, if we are the church, isn’t participation in your church and its meetings a little arbitrary? One person said the meetings are an opportunity to worship together, and still another said they needed the teaching as part of their regular discipline. But what want to worship or feel like you don't need the teaching? Is there another reason?
We were discussing a speech (and blog post) I had recently given about the Parable of the Great banquet. A wealthy man invites others of similar status to his banquet and they decline. They are too busy. The great postmodern response, in my opinion, is why do I need to go to your banquet?
Why do I need to go to your church? Can’t I make my own version? Isn’t my fellowship as good? What’s with all that? It’s a good question because so many of our consumeristic choices are that arbitrary. Rather than buying what the authorities are selling us, rather than believing what they are saying, we are better creating something on our own and from within ourselves.
I already hinted at the philosophical problem with such a line of questioning. It takes more than what you can form on your own to be the church. You can’t do it alone. We are created and we are creating it together. But you, and your creativity and imagination, fueled by the Spirit and led by Jesus, matters. It matters to me and to Circle of Hope. You are helping form us. So rather than just think you are attending something that you merely have to show up at, like it is a relatively static party of something, it is something you are joining and forming. It’s a body.
It’s a lot more of a big deal than merely showing up to a meeting. The church is more than that and its more than the walls of the building. It is you. And when I say “you,” here, it is in the plural sense. It is y’all, as our pastor Ben would say. It is all of you. And it’s more than just the individual you. You make up the church together. The covenant, an agreement to love Jesus and one another together, gives us a commonality that makes such cooperation possible.
For me, one of the main reasons I am part of Circle of Hope is that collective formation, the opportunity to be something more than myself with the body of Christ. It isn’t just about my needs and preferences. Which I suppose is why someone would ask then—why do I need to come to the meetings? You’ve made a big deal about how the church is more than that.
When Paul was writing letters to the house churches across the Mediterranean, the Christians there didn’t have much of a choice in participating in the church. They were part of community for the sake of protection, but also because the alternative was participation in the Empire and the state. For them, existence was resistance. They didn’t have the luxury of general state protection (and subsequent irrelevance) and then the choice to simply participate in what suited their proclivities.
Though I don’t wish for that kind of persecution, when the state enables us to consume “church” like we would any other product, or simply participate in our own invention of it, we are missing a little of the point right?
But more than just participating in something that is bigger than us and beyond our needs, it’s about including someone else. We may feel a little over the banquet because we already feel acclimated, in community, and socially satisfied. We don’t need to go to the party because we are already full.
To those who already feel satisfied, one reason to be a part of the church is to host the party—host the neighbors. Even if you don’t think the church will meet your needs, which generally I would contend, why not participate to include someone else? My biggest reason for doing the church is to include people who don’t’ have the kind of space to relate to Jesus. Just because you can create it with your friends, doesn’t mean everyone can.
Participating in the church is a way to be hospitable and inclusive. It is a daily opportunity to love someone, to listen to something, to grow together as a body. It’s beautiful because it is a body that isn’t just made of your friends, and I’m not saying that because meeting everyone is impractical, but because you may not fall in love with everyone you meet or everything that happens. It’s an opportunity to be a part of something that’s bigger than your preferences. And the disciple of participation is an opportunity to not be the god of your budget and your time and your passion. Our common agreements become bigger than your preferences and personal limitations.
What else would you add? Why should someone be a part of our church?