Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Computerized Church

From an interview with Thabiti:

What would you say to a twentysomething who is convinced that her routine of watching online sermons and occasionally attending area church bible studies is her “church”?

There is a lot that could and should be said only after talking with her and listening to her story about how and why she came to sit before that computer screen. I would want to respond differently depending on whether the young woman was hurt by a previous church, or whether she sinfully acts as though she doesn’t need other Christians. I’d want to discern whether
the issue is weakness or wickedness, and then respond hopefully gently and appropriately (Gal. 6:1-5).

But in general, the person who thinks the computer screen is their “church” is missing out on the rich wonders and glories of Christ which are specifically contained in His body. For example, 1 John 4:17 tells us that the love of God is “perfected with us” (ESV) or “completed among us” (NIV) in the body of Christ. Peter says that in the body as our gifts are used the “various administrations of God’s grace” take place (1Peter 4:11). In the body of Christ, the sufferings and the comforts of Christ overflow into our lives (2 Cor. 1:5). There is mutual rejoicing and suffering (1 Cor. 12:26). Maturity and growth occur inside the body of Christ--and that’s as God designed it (Eph. 4:11-16). The full range of Christian experience is found inside the living, breathing body of Christ, the local church. The Christian who neglects the church, neglects a deep, rich immersion into the fullness of Christ.

Also, I’d want to say that the person before the computer screen may by their refusal to join a local church be saying to God, “You don’t know what you’re doing.” That’s really one of the attitudes Paul addresses in 1 Cor. 12:12-27. That attitude takes two forms: “I’m not necessary to the body” and “I don’t need others.”. And in both cases, the apostle makes it clear that the church is God’s intentional work and every member is absolutely essential to it. Each member of the Godhead has a part in making the body of Christ what it is. The Spirit baptizes each member into the body (1 Cor. 12:13). Christ incorporates each member into His body (v. 12). And the Father “arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose” (v. 18). The church is a wondrously Trinitarian creation of God, and to refuse membership in it is to oppose the plans and purposes of God for our spiritual lives.

Read the whole thing.