A 2019 Lifeway Research study found that “a majority of Protestant churchgoers believe they can walk with God without other believers”.[i] The church is where Christians put into practice the habits to live Christianly, and encourage each other in godliness and purity. Worship is incarnational – a faith with skin on – where we confess our sins and pray for each other so that we may be healed. Worship is connection, with God and each other. “In reality, we need each other,” the late Jean Vanier wrote. “We need to touch our wounds and keep the vision. I am wounded. I need help from my community. I need help from Jesus, because I cannot do it on my own.”[ii]
The regenerated life is a work of grace within which we bear the tension of the already, but not yet. And it takes time for newborns to mature out of spiritual diapers – and caregivers to change them along the way. Jesus did not say go and make Christians, but disciples who were to be baptized and taught.[iii] A crusade does a great job answering what I need to be saved from; who I am being saved to – not so much. The mission of the church is not simply to troll for transactions, but to produce fruit that abides. Individual decisionism is only half a truth – half a Gospel – when it emphasizes a momentary Just as I am to the exclusion of Just as we are becoming, with a new identity lived out in community. Evangelists may plant the seed, but Word and Table are where God meets those who have died to grow and thrive in the nurturing soil of the body of Christ. What we call “sanctification”, the Orthodox refer to as Mystagogy, which Fr. Stephen Freeman identifies as “the primary form for the transmission of the gospel is the community of the Church. The Christian faith, in its fullness, is properly only seen in an embodied community of believers living in sacramental union with God through Christ by the Holy Spirit.”[iv]
[i] Leah MarieAnn Klett, “Study: Most Churchgoers Say They Can Walk With God Alone”, Christian Post, August 7, 2019. https://www.christianpost.com/news/study-most-churchgoers-say-they-can-walk-with-god-alone.html (accessed August 8, 2019).
[ii] Jean Vanier, We Need Each Other, Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2018,.
[iii] Matthew 28:19-20
[iv] Stephen Freeman, “The Struggle Against The Normal Life”, July 18, 2019, Glory to God for All Things. https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2019/07/18/the-struggle-against-the-normal-life/ (accessed July 19, 2019).