They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. –Mark 1:21
“I don’t need to go to church to be a good Christian. I can worship just as easily in the great outdoors as I can inside the church.” Have you ever heard that sort of a statement? Have you ever noticed that those members of the Church of the Great Outdoors rarely seem to spend Sunday in their self-selected sanctuary unless they’re chasing largemouth bass or lying in wait for deer.
“I don’t need to go to Arrowhead Stadium to be a good Chiefs fan.” (Talk about an act of faith this season!) This is true. I can follow my favorite football team on the TV or the radio. I can read about them online or in the paper and still be a genuine fan. And since parking at the stadium now costs enough to put a person through college, I have no great desire to brave the elements and shed my cash in order to “worship” in that great red church.
But honestly, I have to admit that if I were a Chiefs season ticket holder, I might feel more strongly about the team. I’d probably know player names and numbers. I’d be inclined to talk about their ups and plentiful downs. Maybe I’d even be one of those who would pay big bucks to fly a banner around the stadium demanding the firing of the Goat du jour. As a non-attendee, I find it abundantly simple to ignore the Chiefs.
When Christians cease to spend time together for the purposes of worship, it’s increasingly easy for them to simply ignore the demands and blessings of the Christian life. As well-intentioned as they might be, those who spend Sunday morning in the “Great Outdoors” typically find matters of God fleeing from their minds.
Where did Jesus go on the Sabbath? Obviously he didn’t darken the door of Capernaum Community Church, since the church had not yet been created. But he went to the synagogue. Was that synagogue full of hypocrites? Probably, but Jesus went there. Did they sing the sort of songs that he liked? We don’t know, but I can’t see him staying away because of that. Could Jesus have worshiped just as well in the great outdoors? What a silly question. Jesus was God. Wherever he went, worship took place.
If Jesus saw fit not only to attend that fallible synagogue in Capernaum but to serve them by teaching, how much more should the common Christian do that? The great outdoors is terrific, but the church needs to be together to be the church.