Going to church? Fill ‘er up …

14-year-old Lao among THS’s Class of 2011
May 17, 2011
Thursday, May 19
May 19, 2011

Whenever I need to buy gas for my car, I probably do what most of you do. I try to go to a station where the price is “reasonable,” pay with my credit card and then pump gas into my vehicle. Most of the time I do not carry on any serious conversations with other patrons.

If someone at another pumping station makes eye contact with me, I politely acknowledge his presence and we may exchange chitchat. If I recognize someone I know, the conversation may be extended. However, I do not feel a sense of community with the other patrons or the owner of the station. I appreciate the fact that the station is available, but that is about it.

I would like to suggest that many Christians have a “service station” approach to their church. They realize a need in their lives for God’s grace, so they attend church on Sundays to fill up with God’s spiritual nourishment. They are polite to anyone they meet but they do not see themselves as part of the community of believers.

We see this in others’ body language. Body language never lies.

You can generally look at a person and can tell whether they are angry or happy by the expression on their faces. You know whether a person is cold, hot or comfortable by looking at their body language. If they sit huddled with arms crossed, they are likely cold. If they are fanning themselves, they are hot. If they are relaxed, you know they are comfortable.

When a church is half-full, people often scatter throughout the pews, rather than sitting in the front seats as a community worshiping together.

If offered a choice of two free tickets to the Superdome – on the 50-yard-line or in the “nosebleed” section, the decision is a “no-brainer.” You’d choose the 50-yard-line. So, why do some people choose the worst seats in church instead of being with other members of God’s family?

The answer lies in our culture as American Christians. In the U.S., the myth of the “rugged individualist” remains. It tells us individuals need not rely on anyone else to get through life; we can do it alone. We all know the fallacy here. We are where we are today because we stand on the shoulders of many people.

Individualistic thinking emerged from the 19th century’s approach to spirituality. Both Catholic and Protestant churches emphasized a “Jesus and me” spirituality, which neglected St. Paul’s teachings, we are the Body of Christ.

Today, many Christians do not act as though they belong to the family of God.

St. Paul reminds us, “We, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.” (Rom. 12:5)

He repeats this idea in his first letter to the Corinthians, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Cor. 12:27)

As members of Christ’s Body by our baptism, we have the responsibility to use our gifts and talents to build the Body of Christ.

Again as Paul states, “The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints (the members) for the work of ministry, for building up the Body of Christ.” (Eph 4:11-12)

The seven most deadly words in Christianity are, “We never did it that way before.” Maybe it is time we start developing a scriptural approach to the church as the Body of Christ instead of applying a gas-station mentality.