“I Need This!”
Written by Ps Dev Menon
Over the last 10 years, I’ve had the privilege of teaching the catechism class. This is a ministry I love doing – firstly because I get to know all our members (can you believe I have catechized over 500 of you!? 😮). Secondly, it keeps me focused on the core doctrines of the church. Each round, largely thanks to the questions of the participants, I get a little clearer in my own understanding of these foundational truths.
Recently, as I was teaching on baptism & holy communion, I was reminded that the religious activities of the Church, including the sacraments, the preaching of the Word, and prayer; are to be regarded as ‘means of grace’. They are the ordinary ways in which God communicates His gospel and covenant blessings to His people – to strengthen our faith in Christ.
However, because it is ‘grace’, sometimes I feel this communicates the idea that these churchy things are optional. It is a good thing to go to church – but I don’t really have to. It is not compulsory.
While it is true that the early Reformers, like Martin Luther, fought vigorously against ‘religious slavery’ – in a time where churchy things were forced or imposed: the leaders basically threatened hellfire for non-participation. However, I don’t think the Reformers ever implied that gathering to hear God’s Word and to receive His sacraments was optional!
They knew, more sharply than anyone, that we are sinners… and as sinners, it is our nature to stray. God in His mercy gave us His church with all its activities, precisely because He knows us all too well! Thus, the less we participate, the more our hearts grow cold and selfish.
The correct way to think about church, I believe, is to recognise the depths of our sin, and hence be desperate for God’s ordinary means of grace. Basically, the sentiment of the mature Christian towards gathering to hear God’s Word, to pray and receive His sacraments should always be: “God help me! I need this!”
How has our attitude to church changed after 1 year of COVID? Is it now an optional extra, or has it become a most precious resource – one that we cannot live without?