It has been said that politics and religion shouldn't be discussed at the office. These topics are very volatile and have a tendency to result in heated debates that divide people.
Think back over the election year and perhaps you met a person who was passionate about the issues. Or maybe you've found yourself trapped on a plane next to a person who is insistent on telling you about Jesus.
I happen to be friends with both types of people and sometimes I am one of them. Part of the reason these topics stir up fire is they involve the pursuit of the ideal. Religion and politics create in us standards for how things should be and each individual takes that very personal.
I am now going to place an idea on the table that I hope brings about positive discussion around the water cooler.
I believe that going to church is a good idea. The staff of Echo Ranch Bible Camp believe that going to church is a good idea. As part of learning more about God, we recommend that a person read their Bible, pray and go to church. However, in our individualistic society church has lost a lot of its appeal. If we based our spiritual development on reading the Bible and prayer then there wouldn't be a need for anyone else. After all, it's my faith and why should other people bother with it?
Just the idea of going to a Sunday service can evoke feelings of nausea and boredom. Let's be honest, we have all had a bad church experience at one point or another. Yes, I have fallen asleep during the main sermon. I have gotten bad advice from well meaning people who claim to be representing the Almighty. Strange clothing and outdated vocabulary have left me confused and uninterested. And let's not forget the ugly head of hypocrisy created by the faithful who claim to live one way and act another. My role as camp recruiter takes me across the country, and trust me, no church has it just right.
So why am I in favor of church? As many bad experiences people have had while attending church, there are far more positive ones. Marriages have been saved through Bible based counseling. Families have been fed when people volunteer to cook meals. Kids involved with youth group have a positive place to interact with friends and learn more about God. Pastors are often the first person an individual will confide in on the road to recovery from any number of problems. It only takes one Bible verse to inspire, to convict and to heal the troubled soul. Trusting in Jesus for salvation from sin is the first step and church is meant to help as God continues to work in a person's life.
Why would Echo Ranch recommend kids go to church? Because our faith is not as individualistic as some would like to believe. Evangelical Christianity has titled salvation a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, because it is the individual who is responsible to God. Jesus Christ has made it possible for each human being to know God, but the journey of faith was never meant to be walked alone. There is strength in numbers and there is power when God's people unite for the sake of love. Gathering in groups of believers allows people to compare notes and to encourage each other to press on.
Echo Ranch Bible Camp is only a stepping stone on the journey of faith. We can help point a person in the right direction but they have to be willing to make the decision. There are many good churches in Juneau and in the Southeast. There are a variety of churches that cater to different worship styles and convictions.
OK, one last thing to think about: Have you ever watched one of those political conventions on TV? Hundreds and thousands of people gathered with signs supporting their candidate all cheering and getting excited about their leader. That's kind of what church is supposed to be, people gathered together excited about who God is and what he is doing in their life. It is when that passion overflows into their daily lives that real change takes place.
Jon-Michael Gwinnell is a staff member at Echo Ranch Bible Camp. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.