I Quit Going to Church

Dear Church,
 
This morning some members of our pastoral staff (along with other pastors in town) were invited to a meeting with Spring Hill’s Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Wayne Burke. The topic of the meeting was the dreadfully sad issue of suicide – actually, suicide prevention. I’m so very thankful those leading our schools care about the students and are being proactive to meet this challenge head-on.
 
I know suicide is a VERY complex issue and often an outgrowth of mental illness. But as I sat in that meeting I became increasingly thankful for the hope of the gospel and the crucial role of the church in people’s lives.
 
Here are a few of the things that came to mind for which I am thankful:
 
We are not meaningless products of random chance — cosmic accidents. We are the crowning act of God’s creative work, made intentionally to be loved and to live in relationship with a loving God, designed purposefully by God to steward his creation and bear his image in the world.
 
We are not caught up in a meaningless “circle of life” that’s going nowhere. We are part of a much bigger story – God’s story – that is moving purposefully toward an intended end – new creation! 
 
Yes, because of human sin, a great brokenness has entered the story and life is filled with all kinds of consequential and collateral damage, but life’s brokenness does not have the last word because Christ came, lived, died, rose, ascended, reigns, and will return.
 
If the death of Jesus says anything at all, it says God regards each human being as a person of inestimable worth – a person for whom God would give his Eternal Son on the cross.
 
We don’t have to live under the crushing burden of guilt and shame. There is forgiveness and acceptance in Christ.
 
We are not alone! God has given us the Counselor, the Comforter – the Holy Spirit to indwell us, lead us, comfort us, strengthen us, teach us, and bring increasing levels of wholeness into our lives.
 
God called into existence his church – local, tangible assemblies of his people — to be a formative, life-giving community where each person is valued simply because they are indeed valuable – places of connection, belonging, affirmation, training, accountability, encouragement, admonishment, correction, hospitality, service, generosity – all ways of saying, “You belong and you matter.” (Even “admonishment” and “correction” are ways of taking persons seriously and saying, “Your life matters.”) 
 
Though the church is a collection of flawed persons being redeemed by Christ, it’s still true that, “There’s nothing like the local church when the local church is working right.”
 
The Christian sexual ethic is not prudish, stifling, restrictive or abusive. Rightly understood and practiced, it’s honoring, value-conferring, intimacy-enhancing, life-giving, and joy-producing. It declares persons as persons (which brings value); it doesn’t objectify (which devalues). It also makes the sex act an honored, true expression of love (which produces joy), not a casual, purely biological, selfish pursuit of false intimacy (which brings eventual sadness and loneliness). 
 
I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.
 
Let me say this, YOU ARE LOVED and YOU ARE VALUED!!! If you doubt that, take a good looooong look at the cross of Jesus. Also, if you have ANY thoughts of harming yourself, PLEASE talk to us – or to someone that will give you wise, Godly counsel. Your life matters – to us and to God.
 
Please pass this along,
 
Joel