What good is it for a church to be near when people vote with their feet and with their car tyres? People these days shop for churches and find one that they like best. It may be the Holy Spirit guiding them, but it might also be the spirit of one’s preference. Of course, the perfect parish doesn’t exist and if it does, we shouldn’t join it! Yet, if there is such a great disparity between parishes that one can exercise choice, does this choice extend to what one believes? If there is a difference between what two parishes believe, can one be sure that this difference does not compromise one’s salvation? If not, then at least one of the parishes is heretical. What really counts is whether a church is near Christ rather than whether it is near an individual.
In what sense can a church be for you? This ought to have an easy answer. The Church of God lifts up the chalice praying, “We here present to thee, O Lord, the Cup of Salvation : and of thy mercy grant that in the sight of thy divine majesty it may ascend as a sweet-smelling savour for our salvation, and that of all the whole world. Amen.” The Body of Christ was broken for us. The Church of God is for all of Creation, not just for individuals. How does the church exhibit that desire to save the whole world? How does it suffer with suffer with God at the rejection of His love? How does it seek to call people back to Him?
One is often wary of invitations. Each advertisement is essentially an invitation to the consumer to try a product, and yet it would be a foolish consumer to try that product out without knowing what it is at the very least! “We invite you to stick your face in this fan” is not likely to meet with many takers (one would hope none!). So there must be some clear purpose in inviting people in and, for a church, this would have to be the Christian Faith. A church that invites people in to experience the Christian Faith must produce just that if it intends to keep people there. A church that is not clear about what it is inviting people in for may as well be advertising sticking one’s face in the fan.
Again, many people can be very suspicious of this statement. If the above three questions have not been sufficiently answered then the materialistic mantra of “what’s in it for me?” raises its head. For a materialist, what the Church offers is nothing at all. There is no worldly gain that comes from going to church other than meeting people and getting a warm glow at family functions. One does not need the Church to supply social opportunities or happy thoughts and many people seem to be able to find exactly these things elsewhere.