Over the years I've had a number of people ask me, "Why can't I be a Christian without being part of the church?" Going to church by itself doesn't make you a Christian; but being a Christian will lead you to become part of the body of Christ. There was actually a day when I asked that question myself. In fact, I used to say, "I wouldn't be a preacher if you paid me ten million dollars!" But here I am, and I can promise you it's been for considerably less. Obviously I had a change in heart -- and what has happened in my own life is part of the answer of why you can't be a Christian without being a part of God's church.
The lack of pretense at Imagine Church keeps us from getting hung up over the hypocrisy of the church. There is an old story about a man who was sitting in a bar one night lamenting his troubles. He said, "You know, there's never been but two perfect men who have ever lived." His friend said, "I've never heard of but one." The other fellow said, "Then obviously you've never met my wife's first husband." The good woman was apparently guilty of romanticizing the past, and I suspect her first husband was being overrated. The perfection of humanity is at present a myth.
I claim to be an adult, but sometimes I can act pretty childish. I claim to be an American, but there are times when I'm pretty un-American. There is a world of truth in the sign I saw in front of a church on the way to Gastonia a while ago. It said, "You have to be a sinner to join this church." It can't be any other way since there aren't any other kinds of people. We all share the human condition.
Yes, there are going to be some hypocrites in the church. In Imagine Church, we preach a better gospel than we can practice, but we don't quit trying. We hold up ideals we never quite reach; we confess a faith we don't always live up to. But this is the sacred goal we have set for ourselves. And in the meantime, we try to be faithful and to do our best to be the church in our community. And we leave the rest up to God.
In the name of the One who can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
Bruce Jones, Pastor and Co-Creator,
Imagine Church of the Carolinas