Purpose and Pendulums

When I was in seminary I had a history professor who used the metaphor of a pendulum swinging back and forth to describe controversies in the church. When people don’t like something, they swing way to the other side, sometimes too far.

A lot of times in life, we look back at the mistakes of the past – and we do our best to avoid those mistakes in the future. This is the point of history, but sometimes we take it too far. (Think about the lesson behind Finding Nemo)

In my last post, Crisis in Confidence, I said the Church has value. I did not say HOW the church has value. In the past we thought certain things were the value of the church. We thought joining a church gave us salvation, or going to church earned us heaven or reading the bible and going to church would give us all the answers. Wrong, wrong, wrong! We know better now. The real trick to history is fixing past problems without throwing out everything good. What’s that disturbing metaphor about babies and bath water?

This is where the Crisis in Confidence begins! In trying to prove that Church’s value is not all about the things we used to think – we’ve lost confidence in ANY sort of value from the Church! We threw our baby out with the bath water. (which I still think is a weird metaphor)

Don’t get me wrong – there are a LOT of misconceptions about the value of the church still today.

For example – the value of church is NOT salvation. Becoming a member in a church is about joining a family, not “graduating” church. Joining church does not “save your place in line” for heaven. I love the metaphor of family for the church. Please don’t join a church and then never come back. You don’t get adopted into a family and then ignore them for the rest of your life. The value of church is not salvation.

But just because you are trying to prove that joining a church is not salvation does not mean you should not join a church. While it’s true – joining a church does not bring about salvation. Salvation should bring about a desire to join a church. It doesn’t get you into heaven, but it DOES get you into a family.  

It’s also true that the value of the church is NOT worship points. Standing in a church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car. Contrary to the beliefs of many “guilt trip” churches, God doesn’t take attendance on Sunday mornings. We don’t go to church to earn salvation. This also applies to prayer, volunteering, devotions and bible studies. The good deeds of life are for our benefit, not our salvation.

BUT JUST BECAUSE you are trying to prove that attendance doesn’t matter does not mean you should not attend! And while attendance isn’t what matters – presence does! Throwing out attendance ends up in throwing out all those other things we do in the Christian life! The things we do in church are not just about being in the building.

Some folks I know try to use the bible as a rule book. Some others I know see the rules in the bible as out-dated, insufficient, or inconvenient – and so they throw out the whole thing. Baby with the bath water. The pendulum swings too far.

Do you see a trend? What started as an effort to correct past mistakes turns into a list of reasons not to be a Christian. Let’s call this what it is – excuses. A list of excuses. Justification for making church a lower priority.

[I realize that I still have not answered the question of what is the value of the church. Stay tuned for next time – I’ll get there, I promise.]

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