The Nearest Thing to Heaven

How many times have you bitten into a delicious slice of cheesecake (insert favorite dessert here) and made the statement “I’m in Heaven?”  Listening to beautiful music, attending a wedding reception, or perhaps sitting at home in a rare moment of peace and quiet can move us to feel that way at times; this is what heaven must be like.  Do you ever feel that way at church?

My dad wrote a song about the church titled The Nearest Thing to Heaven.  Like old country music, even Dad’s gospel songs were made of two things: 3 chords and the truth.  The point of the song is simple; the Church (universal) should be the nearest thing to heaven you can find on earth.  While he acknowledges there are problems and that no person nor congregation is perfect, the Church is (or should be) filled with God’s people.  The Church is made up of disciples of Jesus, who are continuously learning to be more Christ-like.  In short, the Church should be populated with God’s people, led by and filled with the Holy Spirit, and working for the Kingdom.  With Christ as its head, the Church should be the body.  That should be manifest in our worship and in our service.  Worship takes place in the church building, while our service takes place Monday through Saturday outside of the church building.

Do you enjoy going to church?  

If you said no, there could be many different reasons but I’m going to generalize and respond to two.  One reason could be that the church you attend is not very much like Heaven.  The main activity in Heaven seems to be worship and adoration of God the Father.  There are some awesome pastors out there, but if your church is all about giving glory and honor to only one man (other than Jesus) then its people will always be missing a little of the joy that comes from worship of the One who is worthy.  John the Baptist said that he must decrease in order for Jesus to increase.  After Jesus began his public ministry, the focus of John the Baptist changed so he could make less of himself and more of Jesus.  It doesn’t have to be a megachurch with a television program to have a celebrity pastor.  The same is true with a praise and worship band.  If they perform rather than lead, then all those in attendance are being left out of the true worship experience.

Those are two of the more common problems in today’s churches, ones that appear to be healthy and growing.  There are many ways to get church wrong, and one of the most dangerous is by not teaching the Gospel.  Regardless of size, everything from legalism to easy-believism can leave out the gospel message.  If your congregation meets each week to pat each other on the back and note that everyone not in attendance is going to hell, you’ve missed one of the most important statements Jesus every made to the church – the Great Commission.  Adopting the motto “our twenty is a plenty” is not going out and making disciples.  Instead of being fishers of men some churches are content to be keepers of the aquarium.  Read the Bible and compare your church to what’s going on in there.  Is your church family being feed from God’s word?  Are you challenged by Christ’s examples to be more like him?  Are you meeting in harmony, sharing with the community, and reaching out like the early church in Acts?  Are your leaders the kind described by Paul in 1 and 2 Timothy?  Christians should be teaching God’s Word, seeking his will, filled with his spirit, and conformed to the image of his Son while living the Gospel.   A child of God should look forward to spending time in a such a place; “I was glad when they said to me ‘Let us go to the House of the Lord.'” (Psalm 122:1)

The Other Possibility

If the church you attend is doing all of those things correctly, and you still begrudge being there for any length of time at all, then the problem could be… you.  If you do not enjoy hearing God’s Word and spending time in worship, then you probably wouldn’t be very happy in heaven either.  That’s pretty much all they do there.  Perhaps the uncomfortable feeling you get is what we call conviction; that’s the Holy Spirit whispering in your heart, convicting you of sin and drawing you to Jesus.  If you have one of those healthy, heaven-like churches described above, don’t worry.  It is filled with people who not only know how to help you it’s what they love to do.  Any person that is a Christian should at the very least be able to share their own story and explain to another how to become a Christian.

No human being alive today is perfect, but the Church should be the nearest thing to heaven we can find on this earth.  Does your church preach and teach the Word, worship together, and take the Gospel to the nations?  Are you sharing a cup of water, literally and figuratively, with the least of God’s children?  Look at the letters to the seven churches in Revelation, and see if any of those look like your church.  Since Christ has not yet returned it is not too late to fix it.  As a very last resort, if your church cannot be fixed, you need to find a fellowship of believers that are doing it right.  Don’t leave because you hate the color of the carpet, but if your church does not foster an environment the promotes spiritual growth you may be in the wrong place.

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