The Problem with Church

The Problem with Church

I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land. Jonah 1:9

I’m always a little surprised when I hear someone insist that if you learn the right things, it will necessarily translate into right behavior. Life just doesn’t work that way for me. Many times, I’ve known right but chosen wrong. It’s absolutely necessary to first know the truth, but simply knowing isn’t enough. That knowledge must be manifest in my behavior, or it’s just some stuff in my head.

This is the problem with church. I can – and should – go to church to learn right doctrine, but church can’t live my life for me. The pastor can be a man of tremendous knowledge and integrity, but he can’t have faith or recover for me. I’m responsible to apply right knowledge to my behavior, or I just have useless knowledge.

This is where Jonah found himself in today’s passage. While running from God’s will, God sent a storm to intercept his ship. The mariners on board recognized the divine origin of the storm and interrogated Jonah, who responded with the truth – and a lie, insisting that he feared the God who made the sea and the land.

Like me, Jonah knew right doctrine, but also like me, he told himself that he followed God, while going his own way. Sure, I fear God, but right now, I’m doing what I want. Jonah’s knowledge of God was useless as long as he kept it confined to his head.

This is where I have lived much of my life. I’ve gone to church, learning Bible stories, assuming that knowledge was the point. Right knowledge though, is only a stepping stone to right living. As Jonah proved, I can know about God and still run from him.

The problem with church isn’t really with church, it’s with me. If I want true faith, if I want to know God, and if I want to live in recovery, it isn’t enough to go to church and learn a bunch of stuff. I must daily live according to what I know is right, or that stuff is just useless knowledge.



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