Why I Need the Church and the Bible
Some people wonder why they would ever need the Church or the Bible. Why not just go for a walk on the beach or climb a mountain and meet and worship God there? Can you not experience God as well or perhaps even better in nature than at Church or from reading the Bible? I do not doubt for a minute that you can experience God in nature, for I have done that myself. Nature has a way of opening the human spirit to the Divine. Our experience of God while in nature often seems more real than anything that we may experience at Church or from reading the Bible.
I have found that when I wish to travel to a place, I want to know everything about it. I will read everything I can about it, and I will try to find people who have been there and are able to answer questions about that particular place. I find myself filled with questions. What is the best way to get there? What should I see? What should I avoid? What should I wear for clothing? You see, I do not want to be surprised. I want the best trip possible. I especially do this when I go for a hike in the mountains, for I do not want to get lost. The harder the climb, the more research I do.
Going to church and reading the Bible are like the research one would do for a journey unto a very high and often dangerous mountain. For me, it seems only natural to talk to as many people as possible who are on or have made the journey. I once went to Africa and climbed Kilimanjaro. I called everyone I could find who had made the climb, even complete strangers, and asked them about the mountain and the trails. I wanted to be ready for anything. I wanted to make it to the top. When Christians gather at church, it is mainly to talk about the journey and to study the map. They consider their map to be the Bible. The strong and knowledgeable ones among them who have been on the journey a long time do not attend church solely for themselves, but also to help the young and weaker ones among them. They want everyone to get to the top. They share with them the trails to avoid and the ones to take. They make sure that the young ones know the map and the right and best guides who can help them on their journey.
Let me say something about the map. It is true that sometimes people get the map mixed up with the real territory. When that happens, people often spend more time reading the map than moving on in their journey. I know some people who are always reading and talking about the map, but never seem to get too far along on the journey. They seem to have confused reading the map with the journey. This is truly sad because it confuses people about the reasons for the journey and the purpose of the map. Of course, on the other side of the coin are those who feel they can do okay without a map, compass, or a guide. These folks often end up in a briar patch lost, cold, and hungry. They often spend a great deal of time backtracking and wandering around aimlessly. However, some of the stronger ones seem to get along fairly well without the map, but when asked where they are, they often do not seem to know. The little ones and weak ones without the map and compass often just die or quit.
Because the journey is often long and hard, the map at times can be quite hard to read. It does have a lot of details about the journey. It is there to help and is very important. However, it can be confusing to someone not too skilled in map reading. When the journey gets difficult, it is then a person needs to remember the training in which the guides taught him about how to use the map. It is even better if travelers have cell phone, so they can call a guide for further directions on how to make best use of the map. We always need to remember that the map is a piece of paper that only reflects the territory. It is not the territory. We also need to remember that the map was made by a lot of people who have made the journey and left us their story about it. When we read the map, remember that those who wrote it were all on the same journey, but not all used the same trail and all did not make it to their destination. Like in nature, some trails are better than others and a bad choice can cause you to lose your way or even perish. Yes, some died on the journey without making it to top or back home. This is another reason why we should study the map; we want to know that we are on the very best trail.
If you are not a member of a church, let me suggest that you find someone, maybe some of your friends who are on the journey and ask them about the church they attend. Ask them if they study the map and if its members are excited about the journey. If they say yes to both questions, you might want to check it out. You can also begin the journey by getting a Bible and start becoming familiar with what it teaches. You do not need to understand everything—just start reading it. A good place to start is the Gospel of John. If you do not know of anyone who is able to help you, you can write me, and I will be glad to help. I often have map reading courses at my office or even in people’s homes. If you would like to attend one, let me know. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org