Once again, The Christian Atheist strikes again. I love the authors thoughts. There's a chapter later in his book titles When You Believe in God but Not in His Church. Immediately I was hooked. He put into words exactly what has been on my mind as of late.
Here are a few examples from the chapter (some are direct quotes, other I shortened to my version)...
The problem thinking "we go to church" is that it gives us a consumer mindset: I'm looking for a church that meets my needs. I need a good church that will help me. The church is actually Gods chosen vehicle to meet - through other human beings - peoples true needs (including our own).
In the first church described in Acts 2, "church" wasn't something people added to their lives. Church was the center of their lives. Church was not a physical building; it was the community of people who shared a belief and faith in Christ. "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (Acts 2:42). They didn't go to church; they were the church, devoted to God's Word, God's people, and God's mission.
"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:36-39 ESV)
....Church allows you to do both.
According to Hebrews 10:24, we're responsible both to hold each other accountable and to encourage one another: "Spur one another on toward love and good deeds." Verse 25 tells us how: "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing."
When we hit relational bumps with others, instead of walking away and leaving the church, we can stay and work through our problems, which can help us grow spiritually as we learn to forgive.
In addition to belonging, church gives us a place to grow. Romans 10:17 says, "Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ". Our faith grows as we hear the message taught and proclaimed. Living it out solidifies it for us. James 1:22 says, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."
God is not calling us to go to church, He is calling us to be the church.