The other day as I drove my route for my job, I went to drop off some spare papers at the hospital as usual. However, I went through a different part of the building. Above the doors read the sign “Admitted&Visiting”
Hm. Honestly, I couldn’t help myself from nearly laughing. Of course!
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)
Local churches are like hospitals for those in spiritual recovery. Yet how often do we think of church membership for people who have their act together? It’s easy to start with grace, but it’s harder to continue in it. Once we start with grace it is hard not to get puffed up with other things along the way.
We can get puffed up over our church activities and church involvement. We can get puffed up over our accountability groups. We can get puffed up over our music, our baptisms, our carpet color, our potlucks. We can get puffed up over tongues (if you practice them), miracles, or healing. Anything really.
The more puffed we get, the more we forget. The church may be for us, but it was never about us. The church always will and has been and needs to be about Jesus Christ.
I have difficulty committing to local church groups these days, I’ll be honest. Not because of what church represents, but because of what I represent when I’m there. Why “join” if my heart is really only visiting grace?
Quite accurately I presume there are many “visitors” in church pews who desperately need to be admitted to the throne room of grace but feel alienated, either from Christ or other people.
I don’t know what your story is, but I know mine. I know I need to be continually admitted into God’s grace. I need His grace daily not because people tell me it’s the right thing to do but because I will not be whole and complete without Him.
Church activities, friendships, accountability, or whatever draws you near to grace is really only a byproduct of grace itself. If we substitute the byproduct with the thing itself we will become thoroughly confused.
There’s also a common complaint among people my own age that church is a mess and they don’t always like it. They don’t always feel like being there, because they don’t like it, and they like it even less because they feel pressured to have to.
Do you really have to like church? Is it not greater faith to love those in your church when you don’t like it and it feels like pulling teeth? Isn’t it okay to openly disagree with others in your church on theology and convictions, to a degree, because you have questions? If you cannot ask the tough questions then is it wrong to go deeper with others who are ready?
How do you define church membership and church commitment? When is it right to leave and right to stay? Where do you choose when the choice is yours and less of your parents’? What is the importance of signing a piece of paper to make it official? (These days Facebook seems to make EVERYTHING official). Why go down to the altar?
Do you ask yourself these questions or do you do what you do because it’s the way it has always been done? Traditions are never necessarily wrong until they are empty of meaning, conviction, and purpose. Do you judge traditional people in your church even though they are on fire for God just because they are “traditional”? Do you think what is contemporary and modern and hip the right thing because old ways are outdated, and that alone makes them wrong?
I ask myself these questions. Do you?
I’m ready to celebrate a full on grace recovery and embrace life as God designed. I’ll be admitted with whoever wants to come with me. God wants all to come.
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)