Is Church Really Necessary?

“Ok, ok… I’ll go to church!”

This was often a response to comply at the behest of mom, abuela, or tia when we were younger growing up in a Latino home and forced or coerced into going to church, right? And more often than not, it was mass. You see, my beloved Mexican culture, with an exaggeratedly dominant Roman Catholic presence, places a huge emphasis on “going to church” but never on “being” the church or “belonging” to the local church. So what happens is that we get perpetuating generations of our people who are biblically ignorant but rich in cultural traditions.

This beautiful group of folks just became official members of Reformed Church L.A. in Lynwood, CA.

What am I talking about? Here are a few cultural traditions almost all Latinos, not just Mexicans, can relate to? How many of these apply to you?

  • The sign of the Cross with one’s hand when driving by a church.
  • The sign of the Cross with one’s hand at the end of a prayer.
  • Repetitive prayers, like the “Our Father” that are recited over all situations and circumstances with no reference to other biblical passages, just vain repetition.
  • Baptizing of babies as a cultural box to check off, with no biblical discipleship of children, and no true accountability within the Christ confessing covenant community (like Reformed folks do).
  • Quinceañera ceremonies within the church that have no biblical or Scriptural reference, but were imperative that every 15-year old girl have, no matter the family’s financial status or hardship (By the way, quinceañeras are dope, I’m not knocking them).
  • Rosaries prayed for the dead, in hopes of getting their souls out of purgatory and into heaven, when in fact the Bible teaches the opposite (5 Solas).
  • Not eating meat on Fridays during Lent, but never a mention of sexually immoral behavior or relationships.

You see this makes perfect sense. When there is no biblical understanding, how can one be expected to do what the Bible calls for? Now this carries over into Evangelicalism too. People appear to have somewhat of a biblical understanding, however, they have a problem committing to local church. We are a consumeristic people and generation, we are spoiled, we think that the world, and even the Lord’s church is Burger King, and we want things done our way, and not now… but right now! Our people tend to church hop, they continue to move on, over and over and fail to commit to a local church, they will not submit to the elders of the church, and like “chapulines” will continue to bounce from one to another with no real intention of staying, or only as long as the first clash or disagreement and then they’re gone.

This is a really sad thing and was unheard of in the early church! The church endured true hardship and persecution, it strengthened the church as it grew against all odds. But you see, the Lord Jesus was with them, they truly understood the Gospel and it showed in how they lived their life, cared for each other’s needs, and didn’t throw in the towel. But now a days, people leave church after church because of petty things, because someone didn’t say hi, didn’t invite them to a party, looked at them the wrong way, didn’t let them serve where they wanted when they wanted, and one of the biggest is that folks don’t want to be held accountable. They don’t want you to know their sin, so they leave just as you’re really getting to know them.

Even during the pandemic, we were teaching folks about biblical membership and publicly receiving them into our church.

When we first planted Reformed Church L.A. we had multiple people on our launch team that left, some just a few weeks into it, others as time progressed and for different reasons. I remember one dear sister whom I love dearly said to me, “I need to be in a bigger church where I can come and go without being noticed.” Well, for us, that’s just not gonna happen. We know when people don’t come to church, and we’re concerned for them, because we know what happens when people start to drift. We’ve had people tell us they couldn’t make it to church because of their kids sleep schedule, their kids sports, because they’re tired, because they got into an argument on the way to church… the list goes on and on. 

Then there are many, many people in the Latino community who say that they believe in God, and I agree that they may know “of God” but they don’t really “know God”. You see, knowing about God and knowing God are two different things. There are many of our people, who because of our culture, know that there is a God out there somewhere… they have a basic understanding of a God concept, and still many of them don’t like “organized religion”, but unfortunately that’s the way God designed His church… that it would be organized. Lots of people have heard of the crucifixion but they don’t really understand what happened there. They don’t understand substitutionary atonement, they think they’ll go to heaven because they’re good people when in fact that Bible says that, “None is righteous, no, not one…” (Romans 3:10) and that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Many of my people have lots of cool spiritual sounding phrases they have memorized, yet none are biblical. I’m sure you’ve heard them too:

  • God helps those who help themselves. 
  • God will never give you more than you can handle.
  • Heaven gained another angel. (This is a REALLY hard one). 
  • I love God but hate the church. 
  • You are more than enough!
  • God hates sin but loves the sinner.
  • God wants me to be happy.
  • Just put it out to the universe. (Cringe because God made the universe and everything in it.)

As nice as these things sound, they are not biblical. I recently posted about this blog and asked what I should address and my good friend and former City of Lynwood Mayor, Aide Castro said, “People like me that have faith but question everything in the Bible and don’t trust religions.” So… here I am writing about people who have faith, or say they have faith, but question the Bible and are leery of religions. So I think it’d be a good time to address religions. But first, for the record, there is absolutely no way to know the full counsel of God outside of His written Word, the Bible.

Every single religion, outside of Christianity, has a system of merit that they believe will lead them to heaven, we call this “works based righteousness”. In every religion, man and woman have to “do”, while in Christianity, God said “done”, He did for us what we’d never be able to do for ourselves. That is the beauty of the Gospel. Let me say it another way. In every other religion man is seeking to get to God, while in Christianity God came to man. Isn’t that beautiful? It’s so easy, so beautiful that it sounds crazy to folks. 

Christianity teaches that God came to us in Christ. [1] That He lived a perfect life we never could and died a death that was meant for us. [2] And all this He did out of love, He didn’t wait for us to get our act together, while we were still His enemies, Christ came and died for us. [3] And because praying to statues or images is idolatry, and because we don’t need to pray to saints (we are the saints), we have the security of knowing that Christ is our Mediator, we have no need of anyone else. [4] If we repent of our sins and turn to Him, we’ll be saved… that’s it.

So all this is to say what? That if one is a true believer in God, the Triune God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, if one acknowledges that there is no way to be saved outside of Christ, then one MUST belong to a local church, one MUST attend regularly, one MUST trust and obey what God has said in His written Word, the Bible. One MUST give of their time, their talents, and their treasures to help the mission and vision of their church. One must NOT have a consumeristic mentality about church, one MUST belong, be committed to serving and giving. 

Now, let me be clear, there are many biblical Scriptures that are difficult to get our heads and hearts wrapped around, but the problems is that outside of the Bible, we try to make God like us, we try to hold Him to our standards, when in fact it’s the exact opposite, we are to conform to His standards, we should make every effort to live holy lives, to honor God with our lives, be mindful of what we say and do, be mindful of how we treat others, and remember that tomorrow is not promised, if anything 2020 has proven that once again. We are to examine ourselves, test our ways, and return to the Lord when we’ve drifted off. [5]

So dear friend… sister… brother… if you’re not in a church, get in one. If you’ve been bouncing around from church to church, stop it. Commit to one, fight for it, don’t give up on it and stay until you can no longer stay. A perfect example of that looks like is what my brother and future church planter Martin Velazquez said just a few days ago at his house. He was retelling the story of how he came to be a member of Reformed Church L.A. He said that even though he didn’t agree with the theology of his previous church, he would stay there until they got kicked out or when heresy was preached. Not long after that, the Lord answered his prayers and they were officially kicked out for having different doctrine, even though they’d always submitted to and respected their pastor and his views. 

Friends, if you’ve not yet read the Bible, read it! Study it, understand what God is saying in its entirety. Don’t cherry pick a verse here and there and make it say what you want it to. Like we say at RCLA, “we twist churros, not scripture!” I’d encourage you to wrestle with difficult doctrines and see what is in your heart that makes you think you’re right and God is wrong and go check out Romans 3:4 that says, “…let God be true, even though everyone is a liar.”

I love my culture, but my culture has many many errors when it comes to God’s affairs and His Word, the Bible. So by all means, let us honor our culture best by speaking truth into it and not let the world tell us about God. The Bible knew this would happen and warned us to, not be conformed to the ways of this world, but instead to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, that by testing we would discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. [6] Let me know how I can help you on this journey that I hope you take seriously. God is too big of a deal to take lightly. Let me know how I can be praying for you too. 

That is all, carry on!

[1] 1 Timothy 1:15

[2] 2 Corinthians 5:21

[3] Romans 5:8

[4] 1 Timothy 2:5

[5] Lamentations 3:40

[6] Romans 12:2

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