How Being Part of a Local Church Shapes Us

Author Amy K. Hall Published on 03/05/2014

In response to Donald Miller’s explanation of why he’s not a regular attender of a local church, Jared Wilson argued for the importance of it, saying that local church involvement plays an important role in confronting our tendency to reject authority and embrace an unhealthy individualism:

I think a lot of the rejections in evangelicalism today of God’s sovereignty and biblical infallibility are not unrelated to the more recent conversations about the need to attend regular local church services.... I think it’s because we don’t want anyone being the boss of us, and because doctrines like biblical infallibility (and biblical perspicuity) and experiences like church services are too restrictive, too conforming, too narrow a space for “me to be me.” ...

Certainly one can be self-centered inside a church gathering, but the church gathering is nevertheless where all the sinners ought to be at the appointed time, smack-dab in the middle of a congregational experience specifically organized against the idolatry of personal preference. Not just because God says to do it—although that’s reason enough—but because it is good for us to have our singular voice lost in the sea of corporate praise and it is good for us to shut our social-media-motor-mouths for a bit and hear “Thus saith the Lord.” We should go to church—not mainly, but nevertheless—because it confronts and stunts our spiritual autonomy and individualism. We should go lest we become Cainites, saying “I’m not my brother’s keeper.” Or reverse Cainites, “My brothers aren’t my keepers.”

Of course most of us prefer to worship at the First Church of Hanging Out With My Friends at The Coffee Shop. Of course the more elite of us prefer to worship at My Own Speaking Engagements Community Church. Because, we believe, we “learn better” when we’re the ones doing the talking.

But something happens when you stop submitting to the communal listening of congregational worship and start filling the air with your own free range spiritual rhetoric. Your talk of God starts to sound less like God. He starts sounding like an idea, a theory, a concept. He stops sounding like the God of the Bible, the God who commands and demands, the God who is love but also holy, gracious but also just, et cetera. He begins to sound less like the God “who is who he is” and more like the God who is as you like him....

Awe and reverence. Authority and submission. Proclamation and supplication. Command and obedience. We fear these dynamics because we fear losing our selves, but we know what Jesus said to do to find yourself. If what Jesus says is true, maybe saving reverence for God is lost in the refusal to put one’s self in positions of difficulty, vulnerability, self-denial. Maybe seeking to find our own true path away from the “stifling confines” of the “traditional church” has actually taken us out of the garden of worship and into the wilderness, right into the rubble of Babel in fact.

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