Winston Churchill once said that he related to the church rather like a flying buttress: He supported it from the outside. (A flying buttress is an external support that reinforces the walls of old cathedrals.) I tried that strategy for a while, after coming to believe Christian doctrine sincerely and committing myself to God.
I am not alone. Fewer people attend church on Sunday than claim to follow Christ. Some feel burned by a former experience. Others simply “get nothing out of church.” Why bother?
Today, I could hardly imagine life without church. Church has filled a need for me that can’t be met in any other way. An early-church leader wrote, “The virtuous soul that is alone . . . is like the burning coal that is alone. It will grow colder rather than hotter.”
Christianity is not a purely intellectual, internal faith. It can be lived only in community. At a deep level, I sense that church contains something I desperately need. Whenever I abandoned church for a time, I found that I was the one who suffered. My faith faded, and the crusty shell of lovelessness grew over me again. I grew colder rather than hotter.
And so, my journeys away from church have always circled back to the church.
We join our hearts and hands together,
Faithful to the Lord’s command;
We hold each other to God’s standards—
All that truth and love demand. —D. De Haan
The church is not a select circle for a few but a spiritual center open to all.