Here’s an interesting story from The Associated Press about a humanist chaplain who wants to plant more congregations for like-minded people across the country.
Says the AP:
While many humanists reject anything that hints at organized religion, Epstein is freely borrowing from it — from the “small group” format familiar in evangelical churches to calling his group a “congregation.”
Yet other people have problems with this approach.
Though he supports Epstein, Fred Edwords of the American Humanist Association questions whether a large, untapped pool of potential humanists exists who would join congregations.
“This is a new mission field, if you will, but are those vineyards ripe for the picking?” Edwords said. “I haven’t seen sufficient evidence of it.”
I can understand the need for community for like-minded people. In my life, I felt like my faith was at its weakest points when I was without a church for a couple of years, and it rebounded when I finally got plugged in somewhere.
But churches can’t be just about finding friends (and here, I’m speaking about Christian churches). A lot of us, as individuals and corporate bodies, tend to live in such a way where our church exists for people who are like us (kind of a spiritual country club) and keeps out all the vile filth of the world.
(I’m not excluding Harmony Church from this. We need to guard ourselves against this mindset as we grow, even if it’s only by inches at a time.)
A church should exist for loving Jesus and loving its neighbors and enemies. As local versions of a global, multi-ethnic Body, we should add flavor to our cities and be keenly aware of what’s broken so we can learn how to fix it. We should be people who delight in everything that is good and joyful and invite other people to do the same, to see what we see: the glory of God in creation and life.
We’re exiles. Our fate is bound to our city’s (Jeremiah 29:6).
Yes, we should form deep friendships with people in our groups, but when we sit down to dinner together, there should always be an extra chair available for whoever wants to come in to the party.