I just heard someone say that people in America are not going to church. It was a statement made with an air of sadness. I have to agree that it is a thermometer of the faith of our "Christian" nation. Our thermometer does seem to measure a coldness toward church. Church attendance is important, but is going to church more important than being the church?
I grew up as a "good" Catholic. We went to church every Sunday and confessions every Saturday. I was schooled at the local Catholic school and it was expected that we make our church attendance a priority. I learned that my good attendance at church would be seen by God as a good life worthy of His grace. My problem was that going to church did not always translate into faith in God or a faith filled life outside of the church walls.
Now, don't get me wrong. I am very thankful to my Heavenly Father for the churches' influence on my life. Though I am no longer in the Catholic church, without the stories of the Saints, I would never have desired to have faith or to see that I was a sinner who needed God to save me. My point here is not about what the church teaches. It is that I believe the scriptures, God's Word, emphasizes going out and BEING the church, more than it tells us to go to church.
Of course, I know that I cannot be the church without going to church. The church is the Body of Christ. The church is where I am encouraged by God's Word and the fellowship of other Christians. But, I must leave the church building to go out and truly be the church Jesus desires. What is given to me in the church needs to be taken to those outside of the church.
Lord God, Head of the Body of Christ and founder of Your church, I give You praise for the role of church in my life. I ask You to forgive me for allowing the church to be a shield from the world instead of a safe haven where I can be renewed and equipped to go into the world. Thank You for the balance You created between going to church and being the church. Teach me to be Your church in the world that needs You. Remind me that the church is not a place to hide but a place to heal.