The plane they were flying to their base, approached the runway and was hit with enemy fire; landed hard, and slid along the dirt path that served as the runway. In the midst of fires, flying bullets, and loud screams one man made his way out and into the jungle.
Once there the young man had to figure out how to survive the jungle. The problem was that he had not yet received survival training, had no food, and no weapons. The young man was able to hide in the deep underbrush of the jungle and found insects, and small animals to eat, but he was miserable. It was raining non-stop and he was wet and cold.
The young man knew he had a mission to carry out, but wasn’t exactly sure what it was or how he would make it happen. He was soon found and taken prisoner. Over time the enemy broke his will and through manipulation convinced the young man to fight for their side because they were the only ones he had contact with.
This is not a true story. I made it up as a parable. Many times people recognize that God exists and decide to follow Jesus so that they can have eternal life. But quite often something bad will happen at a church and they will leave, determined to follow Jesus on their own without the church which was not perfect. Like the young man they enter the world with a mission, but little to no training and no back up. They find life very difficult. They want to do the right thing and follow Jesus, but have no idea how. They know that Jesus exists and know they messed up each time they do something wrong. Following Jesus on your own gets to be harder and harder and eventually the world convinces you that it just isn’t worth the effort.
It is true that churches can be harmful. These are the churches where the majority claim Christ but are interested only as far as it benefits them. You are correct to avoid these churches. They are toxic. But it isn’t a good reason to not be a part of a church. The purpose of church is to help us live like Jesus. It is to provide us knowledge about God, but also should teach us how to live like Jesus in the world through the power of the Holy Spirit. I am a part of a church in part because I can’t do it on my own. I need people who will hold me accountable, but will also love me and support me when I am weak. I need a safe place where I can admit failure and receive help to be stronger in the future. A church is a place where we stop and recognize that God is great and worthy to be praised, it is a place where we sing songs, read about God, and listen to sermons that teach us. But more than that, a healthy church is a family that has our back no matter what happens. The church should not be the gate that determines who has eternal life, but rather a training center that points everyone to the only solution to our problems and that is Jesus.
I know many of you have been hurt by a church, or you have determined that a church did not look like Jesus, but that doesn’t mean you should not be a part of a church. It just means you need to find the right one. In Goshen county we have dozens of churches and I am confident that many if not most are dedicated to serving Jesus. Don’t try and do this on your own. Find the church that fits who you are so you can better look like Jesus.
Pastor Kyle Borger
Torrington Church of the Nazarene