In the four years I have lived in the Nation’s Capital region, I have been asked one question more than any other by friends and strangers alike concerning my walk with the Lord.
How is your relationship with God?
When church becomes more important than Christ, we have a problem. The Church is Christ’s body. But without Christ, there is no body. So what is a church without Christ, and what is fellowship with man without first and foremost relationship with God.
I know without the shadow of a doubt I will be judged for the statement, just as I know how much I have been judged for my choices with churches. But I will take the risk anyway, and I have been as guilty as any – until the Lord chastened me and showed me the truth.
I believe the Body of Christ as a whole has become more concerned with its relationship with churches and man than with personal, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.
Last year, in one of the hardest seasons of my life, God pulled me out of church altogether. I was devastated. I lost a number of loved ones almost all at once, and on top of that God did not want me going to church. How could this be? People, I am quite certain, were horrified. How could I survive without church? I was equally horrified.
When God at last released me to go back to church, He made it clear I was not to commit to any one church. Again, people around me were appalled. I saw the looks and stares, and I heard the quiet, subtle, questioning – judgment. And it has not stopped coming. And, quite frankly, it hurts.
I hurt all of yesterday afternoon because of the latest string of people to judge me for not “belonging” to any one church. I had gone to visit a church, and two people I knew made it all too clear I was in the wrong for not committing to a specific four-walled building. I could not believe they would judge me for doing exactly as the Lord has asked me. But alas, I knew undoubtedly someone reading this will judge me – silently – and try to prove to me how wrong I am should they approach me.
By the end of the yesterday, the Lord brought to my attention all the years I have judged and criticized, hurt, and controlled those around me with my own religious spirit. I had dragged people in and out of churches, judged them for going, for not going, for not doing it my way, for not liking the “right” pastor, for being attracted to the “wrong” teaching. I repented. For everything.
God showed me that I had done to so many people what has been happening to me. I had valued my relationship with humans over my relationship with God, and I had made church more important than Jesus Christ. I had wanted man to fix me, and had left God in second place.
Do you know what happened in the long season God took me out of church, I lost many I loved, and He finally released me back to church but not any one in particular? I fell madly, passionately, head over heels, forever in love with Jesus Christ. I learned how to depend on God for absolutely everything, without exception, and I learned how to go to God for love, for companionship, for wisdom, for teaching, for sustenance, for food, for shelter, for wisdom, for guidance, for clarity, for purpose, for meaning, for identity, and for significance. I did not stop loving church and man; I simply learned to put them in their place.
Today, my relationship with the Lord is number one. I have always loved going to church, and probably always will. But I do not subscribe to the belief that there is one four-walled church for me to “belong”. I believe I am to go where the Lord sends me, whether it is one building for the next 20 years, or whether He sends from nation to nation. Given the call He has on my life, and the gifts He has given me, it is quite possible He will not keep me for long in any one place. Do you recall those in the Bible He sent out – time and time again? I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ, His Body.
I immerse myself in His Body, I stay connected to fellow believers, but I love the Lord with my whole heart first and foremost. And I study His Word. I talk to Him all day long, and I listen. I think about Him throughout the day, I dedicate my heart and life to Him. I worship Him in all sorts of ways, and I repent when I fall short – often. I have a personal, intimate, constantly evolving relationship with the Lord! It is better, and stronger, than ever. It is not contingent on any one church, preacher, friend, loved one, anyone or anything at all. It is dependent on Him.
Church is not just Sundays. Church is His Body all week long, all year long, all life long.
So what is the most important question.
It is not, where do you go to church?
The most important question, for me, is:
How is your relationship with God?
If the person does not have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, my first responsibility is not to drag the person to church. It is to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ – and to invite that person into a relationship by faith with the Savior.
If the person does have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, I would rather know about that realationship and see how I might listen, pray, and minister to that person – then have a conversation about the newest church in town.
As far as I am concerned, there is only one church. His. And all of those of us who believe belong to it. And for those who do not, I pray I would walk in God’s love and be a light that points that person – to a relationship with Him first. And then, yes, to a relationship with His Body.
But I pray the most important question I ever ask will always be about Jesus Christ first. Because He is. My number one love. The love of my life. Forever.