As someone who’s in the house quite a lot, I like to engage my brain, and sometimes I watch quizzes. Today, I was watching an old episode of “The Weakest Link”. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, contestants answer questions (banking money for their correct answers) and at the end of each round, they vote the weakest player off. The host (Anne Robinson) talks to the team between rounds about their work, hobbies etc. She puts them on the spot and throws in a lot of caustic comments. She’s pretty mean. The episode I watched featured a youth-worker from a Christian centre, so Anne asked about his church. Tambourines? No … no tambourines. Tongues? “Yes, some people speak in tongues,” he said, “but we’ve got television screens … electric guitars” …
She carried on. “If I wanted to join your church, what doctrine would I follow?”
“Oh, there’s no doctrine, Anne. All you’ve got to do is show up.” That was the point at which I turned off, because I felt sad and quite indignant. Is there anywhere in the world you can go where all you’ve got to do is show up? If you join a football club, you have to play football. If you join a book club, you have to buy the book and perhaps pay a subscription. If you join a church, it’s not unreasonable to expect you to agree with their beliefs and contribute in some way.
So, if someone asked me about doctrine, how would I have responded? I think my answer might have been: “Read the Bible and do what it says”. It’s in the Bible that we find all the important doctrine – all the teachings by which we’re supposed to live our lives. And if they asked me to be more specific? Then I might narrow it down to what Jesus classed as the two greatest commandments: Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbour as yourself (Mark 12:30-31). That’s not as simple as it sounds. It’s difficult to love when you don’t feel valued as a person. It’s difficult to be self-controlled when you’re angry. It’s difficult to be joyful at a time when the world around us seems to have its shoulders slumped, but if “The joy of the LORD is your strength”, it must be available to us. That’s why we need God.
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). We need God’s Holy Spirit, to help us grow in these things we couldn’t do effectively without Him.
If you truly want to join a church, to be part of the people of God, there’s more to it than just showing up. We have a responsibility to pray, to live our lives the way God would want us to, and to ask His forgiveness when we fall short of that. I don’t just want to be a show-upper; I want to be an enter-inner, and I hope you do too.