In response to my post “Be the Church” Keith writes:
It seems as if Adam Lanza was a church attendee. So, The Church, “God’s prescriptions for mental health”, was in this case, unable to overcome the effect of Adam’s broken home.
I love the adage “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.” It’s so true. While membership in a local church is vital to a growing Christian life, simply walking into a building every week does not have transforming power. What does have transforming power then? God’s people (the Church), God’s principles (the Word), and prayer (talking and listening to God.) When we have all three of these at work in our lives we will experience mental, emotional, physical, fiscal, and spiritual health. In an attempt to stay on topic, I will focus on only one of those- “the Church.”
The Church is a group of people who purpose to live out the principles of scripture together. Being the Church involves confession to God and one another (transparency and accountability), corporate worship (not just singing but offering your whole self to God), corporate prayer, doing life together, and meeting one another’s needs. Being the Church involves a willingness to open up, be committed, personally sacrifice for one another, and submit to leadership. Plenty of people “grew up in the church” (went into a building every week) but never personally committed themselves to the apostles teaching (the Word), fellowship (which involves vulnerability) breaking of bread (living life together), and prayer. (Acts 2:42) It is possible for one to “attend” church but never experience “the Church.” Europe is full of magnificent church buildings, and China has very few. But the Church in China is the one that is alive.
Regarding Adam Lansa, it’s God job to make judgements about salvation. (Though if a church spokesman said “it was unclear how often Lanza and his mother attended services” I wouldn’t bet on him having deep relationships there.) But scripture is clear that you will know whether or not someone is “in Christ” by the fruits of their life. (Gal. 5:21)
What I can say is that if the local church is applying the commands to reach out to the “least of these,” bear one another’s burdens, care for orphans and widows (figurative bookends for all those who are needy), be devoted to one another in brotherly love, confess their sins to one another, go to their brother privately to show him his fault, be reconciled to one another, restore one another gently, give to God’s people who are in need, honor one another above themselves, rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn, etc… then at least one or two people will be tuned in if there is an individual in their midst whose world is coming apart.
As humans we have a need for food, shelter, sleep, air, etc… Socially, we have a need to be known intimately. In our Women’s Ministry, we say “You don’t have to tell everyone everything. But you had better be telling someone everything.” Why? Because isolation, shame, and secrecy pave the way to despair. And despair drives people to destructive decisions.
The true Church is defined by genuine relationships proven by transparency, accountability, encouragement, security, and sacrifice. If you don’t have those qualities in relationships with other Christ-followers then you may be filing in and out of a building, but you are not participating in the Church.