“Do not stop meeting with other believers, which some have gotten in the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other, as you see the day drawing near.” —Hebrews 10:25
So I just got home from a good breakfast at the Bradford Cafe and meeting with a few folks and visiting, eating with and praying with them. I then went in to town and ran a few errands, but all of them included some sort of interaction, an encouraging word, or something said to another person.
In other words, I am a people person, an extrovert. I would wager that perhaps that is why being a public school teacher, coach and now a full-time pastor comes easy for me. These are service positions that will not be a good position if you can’t be vulnerable and open with people.
Why I am an extrovert is rooted in the passage in Hebrews. The verse reminds us to “encourage one another.” The verse implies that encouragement is why the people met together for worship in the early church. If encouraging one another is why the early Christians met, then I do feel like I must address a modern myth about the nature of church.
“You don’t need church to be a good person” is a statement I hear as a pastor all the time. Perhaps one day, I can sit down and examine the history of when that assertion about church became popular. But the fact of the matter is a lot of people believe the implication of that statement — that the church exists to make people good. While I believe that behavior matters, going to church doesn’t make me (or you) any good at all. Confessing Jesus as Lord does. Indeed, the Apostle Paul wrote that his only boast for anything was boasting in the cross of Christ.
What good is the church? Church exists not so we can make people good but so we can inspire people to be better. As Walter Wink put it, “to worship is to remember who owns the house.”
So, if I may be so bold, I would rephrase the popular statement as, “You don’t need church to be inspired.” And unfortunately, that is correct. There are many ways our world inspires people.
However, if you want love that never divorces, want grace that never changes and encouragement that you can always lean on, and if you want something more than “good,” then Sunday worship is the place to start.
You might be surprised by what you see. But you will never be disappointed by the Christ who is there. I never have been, and I know you won’t be, either.
John Thomas is pastor at Carroll Springs United Methodist Church.