I’ve spent a lot of time in the church over the past few years, especially considering I interned at my home church the entirety of my senior year of high school. Church is, or at least can be, great. The fellowship that is found in a healthy church body is the kind of thing that leaves you sad when it ends. There’s nothing quite like a Sunday morning filled with grace, worship and food from anywhere other than the MP. The problem with church, though, is that we think it can save people.
I thought that church could save my best friend for the longest time. She didn’t know much about Christianity, since she wasn’t raised in a Christian household, but she was curious. For a while, I thought that the best solution would be to bring her to church with me, but it wasn’t that easy.
She didn’t want to go to church. I still remember her telling me how uncomfortable church made her feel. She had no trust in pastors or Sunday school, and the idea of worship made her cringe. She didn’t understand why those things were important to a Christian—quite simply because she wasn’t one.
As she began to ask more and more questions about this “Jesus” character, I realized that she didn’t need to go to church. What she needed was someone who would walk beside her as she asked the tough questions. She needed a friend who wouldn’t judge her for not knowing the different between communion and baptism, or for not understanding the difference between the KJV and the NIV. She needed a disciple, not an overwhelming church body thrown at her all at once.
Let’s be clear: I didn’t save her. What saved her was the unrelenting love of Jesus Christ. He sought after her, and she accepted His gift of salvation. All along the way, as I watched her life transform, I was blessed to know her. In our friendship, I have learned many things. The most important thing that I have learned is that church won’t save anyone.
Church can help, and I do believe that being part of the church is an important part of walking with Christ. But the way that people find God is oftentimes not through a church building—it’s through the people that showcase what church is all about: late night talks about grace, early morning worship practice, or lunch with a hurting friend.
So no, church won’t save you or your family and friends. What it will do, at its best, is give you the tools to walk alongside someone as they discover what it means to be the church.