“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Matthew 18:20

IS THE CHURCH A NECESSITY OR A LUXURY?

A good friend of mine, Lou, called to discuss whether church is a necessity or a luxury. During our discussion we reached the conclusion that it is both. For our individual faith lives church serves as a propelling force to expand our faith. Through our association and camaraderie of being with fellow Christians we are strengthened. But it is also a luxury, a valuable part of our existence and life.

Lou is a pastor for the United Methodist church and serves three individual churches every Sunday. Each congregation Lou serves has a different makeup. In one, youth ministry is very important. In another, serving the community is an important ministry. But all share the same value of being faithful Christians.

It is hard for Lou to get to each church every Sunday, it means driving long distances and reflecting on how his weekly message will need to be modified for each church.

“Over the years God has chiseled away Lou’s edges and left intact a faith filled person, with a commitment to do the best.”

Lou is a local licensed pastor, a grass roots pastor that did not go to theological school and receive his training. He learned from others and watching other wonderful pastors. Prior to becoming a pastor, Lou worked in construction and was tough and hard-nosed. Another friend of ours says Lou’s heart is his greatest strength. But he had the leftover residue of a construction person. Over the years God has chiseled away Lou’s edges and left intact a faith filled person, with a commitment to do the best.

In fact, Lou was the head of construction for a non-profit called A Future With Hope during the Super Storm Sandy efforts. For a while Lou gave up being a pastor to help those in need. As you would guess, Lou’s homes were rebuilt at a very high level and the cost of rebuilding was a fraction of what other agencies and the state of New Jersey spent. Lou loved this work but loved helping people more.

After this assignment Lou returned to ministry and took on the assignment of pastoring these three churches. All are growing and responding.

“At its core, faith is one of the three most important states of the Christian mind, along with hope and love.”

Lou’s point about the church being a luxury was not that it was an optional item for Christians, but that it is a necessity that should be treated like a luxury. At its core, faith is one of the three most important states of the Christian mind, along with hope and love. Making it both a human necessity and a luxury. Luxury in that it should be treated well, nurtured and respected.

Lou asked me why Yankee Candle, where I worked as the CFO in my previous life, was so much more expensive than the candles bought in supermarkets. I explained, because of their quality. Hours were spent making sure every candle was perfect. Meetings were held to discuss any flaw. The employees knew that their brand was a luxury that had to be the best and it was. Yankee Candle has the highest customer approval of any brand in America.

“In every Sunday visit to church, individual faiths can be enhanced.”

Lou’s point was that our churches have to have this same dedication. In every Sunday visit to church, individual faiths can be enhanced. Each Sunday, not only the pastor, but also the members have to be committed to developing faith in themselves and others.

For the pastor, this task is an every day event. Each person they meet and talk with, expects this level of interaction. Most pastor’s rise to this occasion. For those who attend church, it is both a give and receive effort. We go because it helps round out our faith. We go because there is usually a “God moment” that reinforces our faith.

“Jesus is a sacred and valuable inclusion to every church service.”

Jesus tells us that wherever two or more are gathered, Jesus is present. Jesus is a sacred and valuable inclusion to every church service. Lifting up the importance of why we attend, to be with Jesus. Through Jesus’ presence we are given moments of illumination and insight. Perhaps in the sermon, but also perhaps through those who we meet. Perhaps when we help someone else. This is no ordinary necessity, but a refining of our Christian lives.

“As Christians we are always giving to make our world better, both inside and outside the church.”

But we also give when we are at church; we help when we say hello earnestly or lend a hand. Sometimes we give unknowingly, by saying something to a fellow attender that strengthens their faith. Perhaps someone in attendance needs our kind words that morning. Perhaps we give when we sing out loud and lift the congregation. Perhaps we give by reciting a verse that contains insight that helps someone else. As Christians we are always giving to make our world better, both inside and outside the church.

We go to church because we have learned it is a necessity. But it is also a luxury, faith is not earned cheaply, but with a riveted desire to grow. Like luxury items that are valuable, because of the care put in to produce them.

Faith is a necessity, but also a luxury.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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