Follow Jesus…But don’t forget the church

By KEN LETSON / Guest Columnist

The cover of a recent edition of Newsweek magazine included a photo of a contemporary-looking “Jesus,” with the headline: “Forget the Church. Follow Jesus.” Inside, the feature story was entitled: “Christianity in Crisis: Why we should ignore politics, priests and get-rich evangelists and just follow Him.”

On the front end I am sympathetic to their point. I’m not a big fan of politics or get-rich evangelists either. But the ideas of following Jesus and forgetting the church are mutually exclusive. Jesus loved the church so much that He died for her. It was He who said, “I will build My church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” It is at the very least contradictory to suggest that we can be a Christ-follower and neglect His church.

I believe the article represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be a part of the community of faith. It’s a common theme in today’s society, where people seek to have their own personal spirituality, while rejecting “organized religion” or the institutional church. I will admit that on some things we would probably agree. If the “church” we are to forget is a politicized organization, or a hierarchical structure, or empty ritual, then we might all do well to “forget” it.

But if we think we can come to Jesus and avoid living in His family, we are cutting off our spiritual noses to spite our faces. We are only hurting ourselves, as we eliminate our own opportunities to be cared for, loved on, ministered to, served, encouraged, and on and on. We also forfeit the privilege of God using us as we serve others in the same way.

Sadly, I have met so many people over the years that have had bad experiences in church and are ready to forget the church forever. I can only wish that those people, with their preconceived notions and presuppositions about what church is, could experience the love and support of genuine Biblical community. They would never want to “forget the church” again.

The Rev. Ken Letson is pastor of the Church at Shelby Crossings in Calera. You can reach him at kenletson@shelbycrossings.com.