I came across an article on a fishing blog that I follow that elevates the great outdoors as a co-equal with Christ’s church.
The claim goes as follows: For some, the place to look for peace, to find a purpose, and to seek a connection to something that goes beyond our understanding, is right out the back door.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that waking up in the mountains, standing knee-deep in a trout stream, or exploring a meadow full of wildflowers is invigorating and, perhaps, even good for my soul. However, there are some critical differences that exist between the sanctuary of nature and the church of Jesus Christ.
These truths don’t apply only to nature, but to any kind of recreation that might keep us away from the church.
Allow me to explore two:
First, your recreational venue of choice will never deal with your greatest need—the need for your sin to be forgiven.
If we truly believe what Scripture has to say about our own sinful nature and rebellious heart, we will recognize our absolute need for a church that faithfully preaches both words of Law and Gospel. We need a consistent diet, a continuous rhythm of light shining on our sin, followed by our hope being pointed back to the work of Christ for us. This full and consistent preaching of the Word is that which keeps our faith living and nourished.
Disconnected from the church, we inevitably become distanced from the hope of the Gospel. We naturally turn inward and deceive ourselves with self-sufficiency.
Second, most of our recreational pursuits can easily border on idolatry and must be managed thoughtfully and prayerfully. As part of this, we must maintain a healthy distrust of our inner lawyer — that voice within us that seeks to help us justify everything we do.
The reality is that even good things like recreation and family can become idols.
Tim Keller defines an idol in his book Counterfeit Gods as follows:
An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, “If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I‘ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.”
The entirety of Scripture presents a firm understanding that your relationship with God will exist within the context of a church that prays, sings, reads, teaches, and preaches the Word of God. Nature may be relaxing, and we are free in Christ to enjoy it. But it isn’t the church and it will never do what the church does. And it will never give your soul what it truly needs.
Don’t underestimate how much you need to be part of Christ’s body, and don’t underestimate how much the church needs you!