Solitary (1)

Avoiding ‘solitary religion’ is critical

It’s odd that football fans have flocked back to games while Christians are still missing from church, writes Gary Gibbs.

Can you be a Christian without going to church?

As the pandemic restrictions are eased this question is not only being asked by non-believers.

Some who pre-March 2020 would have physically turned up on Sunday mornings will have mused on this and come to the conclusion that pyjamas, coffee and tuning in either to GOD TV or some live-streaming church will suffice just as well.

But are they right?

It’s strange how football fans, night clubbers, serious coffee aficionados and Women’s Institute members have flocked back to their physical gatherings in recent months. But many of those who self-identify as Jesus-followers have not been so keen.

When he was still quite young, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, met ‘a serious man’, who said to him, “Sir, you wish to serve God and go to heaven. Remember you cannot serve him alone. You must therefore find companions or make them. The Bible knows nothing of solitary religion.”

Remember that avoiding ‘solitary religion’ is critical for a healthy walk with God. Jesus told Nicodemus that he needed to be born again (John 3:3).

The Lord explained that this would mean that God would be the Father to this Jewish leader: a vertical relationship would become a reality. What we sometimes forget is that if God is my Father and yours, then in the words of Sister Sledge, “We are family.”

Every good family gathers together; in fact, if they don’t, we would conclude that the family is dysfunctional.

It’s difficult to love at a distance. Ideally, we need to be ‘up close and personal’. When we do life with other believers, we are assured of our own salvation.

“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.” (1 John 3:14).

Of course, gathering for 90 minutes or so on Sundays is not the be-all and end-all of church, but at least it puts a marker in our lives where we recognise that we are family together, talking to our Father and freely receiving from him so that we can give out to the needy world around us.

I’ve never forgotten the illustration I was given as a new believer about the importance of gathering.

We don’t see many coal fires in homes these days, but I am so old that when I was a teenager nearly everyone had them in their houses.

If a lump of coal fell away from the other pieces in the fire, it would soon lose its flame and actually change from giving out heat and light to become a smouldering piece of carbon and eventually go cold.

I have seen this happen spiritually and morally to so many who thought that they could ‘go it alone’ with no need for coming together with other believers.

One more thing... imagine you share your faith with someone tomorrow and they decide to give themselves to Jesus. You have a new baby believer on your hands.

The question is: what would you do next? Just leave them to get on with it? Of course you wouldn’t. What about if this new believer goes and tells others, and they respond?

I guess you would want to gather them together and begin to teach them about Scripture, prayer, worship, discipleship... now, what would that be called?

First published in the October 2021 issue of Direction, Elim’s monthly magazine. Subscribe now to get Direction delivered to your home.

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