Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Good people don’t go to church

It was different when I was a boy; then all the good people went to church.  We didn’t come right out and say that those who didn’t go to church were bad people, but they were considered rather disreputable.

Somewhere along the line the churches got the notion that their calling was to make the world a better place.  At first blush, this seems a worthy and noble idea.  However, in their enthusiasm to right the wrongs of society as a whole, the churches forgot that their true calling was to proclaim the saving grace of Jesus Christ to individuals.

In my boyhood, every town in Saskatchewan had at least one church, usually United, Anglican or Catholic, larger towns would have all three.  The Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists and Orthodox were also present in some smaller communities and all the cities.  It was the United and Anglican churches in particular that set themselves the task of reforming society.  Their churches became centres for contemporary worship where the example of Jesus and the moral teachings of the Bible became the launching pads for all sorts of worthy endeavours.  There was seldom mention of a transcendent God, however.

This had the effect of reducing the need for many of the church buildings and ministers.  After all, if social good works are the raison d’être of the church, why can’t we do these things without suffering through those stuffy Sunday morning meetings?

The paradigm today is completely different from the time of my boyhood.  The good people are engaged in all kinds of good works, good causes, good protests, without the need of clergy or church.  Never mind that their causes are often conflicting and contradictory, they are all good people trying to do good.

Churchgoing people are sometimes identified as enemies of the good of society.  At best, we are regarded as misled and of not much use to society as a whole.

This should be cause for rejoicing.  “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.  Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).

We may find it a little uncomfortable in our day, when the society around us does not admire Christians, but this is a better place to be.  “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26).

There is no such thing as a good Christian.  A true Christian is a sinner who has been forgiven through the merits of the blood of Jesus Christ and who now lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Such a person experiences daily reminders that “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 7:18).  This realization is a salutary reminder that we are no better than any of the other sinners around us.

From this starting point, our lives should begin to be a testimony of the goodness and power of God.  Not our own goodness, remember, we don’t have any.  Nor do we have any strength of our own; we need a support group: other forgiven sinners who can help us when we slip and mess up.  That is the church.  It is not a place for us to congratulate ourselves on how we are wiser and more righteous than others.  It is a community where we are reminded continually of our fallibility and our sinful nature; where we remind one another of the good that God is doing in and through us.

It is a community where we gather frequently to thank God for His mercy and compassion, for His patience with us, where we can learn more of His goodness and His plan for our lives.  This is called worship.  It is good for worship to be a routine part of our week.  But the worship itself should not be simply a routine.  I do not mean to say that livelier music or more eloquent speakers will necessarily improve worship.  True worship does not depend on these things.

To worship in spirit and in truth is to open our hearts and allow God to speak in the quietness of our assembly to reveal to us a little more of His truth.

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