I’ve begun a search for a new church. Moving away from my hometown has given me the opportunity to examine the life which I led there. Finding a new church has proven to be more difficult that I had imagined. My first church was the church I went to since I was born, and the second was a campus ministry which was two minutes away from where I lived. The campus ministry just felt right to go to when I first visited it. That made my search easy.
This time around, I’ve had to examine what I want in a church. What is the responsibility of the Church, as the body of Christ? What does it really mean? I think that the Church has a heavy task, because it is how people come to see resurrection in the world. A church that is truly changed by the Gospel is one that produces good fruit. I am of the opinion that cultural Christianity is pervasive in American society. Church, at times, is social club. It’s a place to go and hang out with people. Of course, fellowship is necessary and fun shouldn’t be abolished, but a church for the sole sake of fellowship misses out only truly being inspired and changed by the gospel. “ Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
The path of religion is two-fold. There is an inward component and an outward component. The inward I think the the part that modern Christianity focuses on. “You need to get saved or you’ll go to Hell.” Ignoring the implications (and my disagreements) of that statement, there is this focus on the self in this aspect of Christianity. However, the outward part is just as important (if not more important). In the story of the sheep and the goats. God separates the people by whether or not they help the least of these. And because I really hate posting just one verse at a time, I’ll post the entire story. (It’s in Matthew 25 if you want even more context)
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
In this story, the deciding factor between the sheep and the goats are whether or not they helped the least of these. Not saying the sinner’s prayer or sitting aimlessly in a pew for an hour every Sunday. It’s in giving food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, and living out the just and redemptive power of Christ as part of his body on Earth. I think that’s where the fruit of a good church lies. One that keeps it in their constant thoughts to serve others.