I don’t think you need to go to church to go to heaven. I don’t think you need to go to church to become a “better” person, at least better by the world’s definition. I don’t think you need to go to church to live a “good” life, at least good by the world’s definition. I accept that the church is disappointing at times. Churches can and do suffer from any number of maladies: the worship is half hearted, the pastor is distracted or simply inept, the enthusiasm is sapped, the ministries are inward focused, the priorities are worldly, the people are crabby and grumpy, the risen Christ is hard to see. All of this is to preface what I am about to say, by making clear I am not delusional about the church.
I can’t imagine living life outside the church. We are the most reliable place this side of heaven to experience God, through worship and meal, fellowship and service. I can find God anywhere, but I can always find God on Sunday morning in the voices singing loudly, especially when people passionately sing a song they know. I can find God anywhere, but I can always encounter God on Messiah Night, in the warm concern, intimate sharing and hearty laughter of our dinner gathering. The better and good life I want is God centered, cross shaped. Church is the only place I can create that sort of life. I don’t just want to go to heaven, I want to live life as close to God so that heaven is not only a hope, but something I touch regularly in the daily sharing with brothers and sisters in Christ.
All of this is to say, that in the midst of some difficult and overwhelming weeks, I am thankful for the people at my church, who encourage me, worry about me, joke with me, pray for me, and support me. I can choose to live my life however I wish. Thank God, I have chosen to live it in the church. Peace, Pastor Karl