"Praise the LORD!
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation."
When I was first truly exited about Christ as an adult I was 18-19 years of age. At this season of my life I was a big fan of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer entitled cheap grace, although I have come to call it what the Bible does…a doctrine of demons. I enjoyed being able to tell myself that I could do whatever I wanted to do and there would be no repercussions for it. The girl I was dated during this time I dated mostly so we could have sex more and enjoyed selling some weed here and there, just enough so that I could smoke for free. But with all this there was something deep within me that called me to gather once a week with people who had the same belief that I claimed to hold dear to me. I know that the people that were leading this church loved Jesus, but I liked going because I could wake up at my girlfriends house, smoke a joint on the way, and enjoy an emotional worship service and feel little to no conviction about the life I was living. Even when I thought that it was ok to get high every day and sleep with my girlfriend I knew that it wasn’t ok to call myself a Christian and not be a part of the local church.
Through this season Christ put me in places and put people in my life that would not allow me to stay where I was spiritually. And where I was is, in my opinion more deadly than walking around with a loaded gun in your mouth. I grew in Christ, I moved and then moved back. Many, if not most, of my beliefs changed over the next few years through godly people speaking into my life and reading the Scripture for myself. But one thing did not change. My strong desire to join with the people of God, to worship God, hear from the Word of God, and be changed by God.
In Psalm 111 the psalmist says not only that he would worship God with his whole heart, but that he would do it in the company of the upright. In a place with people loved and had been changed by God. He made the declaration that he would praise God in the congregation. And to worship God in the congregation he must first join into such a group.
I know that the Church is not a place or building but the people of God called to join the mission of God. I know that many people may point out that this is the Old Testament. But this is an idea that holds through the whole cannon of Scripture. In his book Dear Son, Dave Bruskas says, “The idea that someone would choose to avoid church altogether and still consider himself a Christian seems to be such a ridiculous concept that it’s never directly confronted (in the New Testament).”
To a world that looks at Christians and mocks maybe the answer isn’t something new. Perhaps it is to go back to something old that has been lost. The church, when it started, was a family. It was a body. It was necessary to the believers who claimed to be a part of it. St. Augustine once penned that no man may call God his Father who does not have the Church as his mother. I think that he was on to something. I have lived in other countries and there is something special about someone who belongs where you belong, someone who calls home the same place that you call home. And that is what the church is. It’s not a place to bring lost people in hopes that the pastor will do the job that God called you to do in speaking the gospel to them. It’s a place where people get together and speak of their home, worship their God and become changed by Him.