Humanity is wonderfully created to be social. God never intended us to live life in isolation or out of contact with others. Our need to be together in community has many manifestations. There is the special bond of marriage. There is the gift of particularly close friendship.

There are also numerous communities to which we may belong. For example, one may belong to any number of clubs or social and fraternal organizations. These groups serve vital needs of community, companionship, and provide a sense of meaning, identity and belonging to members.

There is also the church. On the surface, the church may seem to fit into the category of the social club or fraternal organization. Yet the church really is far more that just another club.

The similarities are significant. Both church and club are communities organized around a defining purpose. Both have particular rituals and ways of designating belonging. Both are made up of people who — for the most part — tend to share similar interests, outlooks, and ideologies.

In a club, however, the primary purpose is to fulfill the self through the greater good of the organization. You pay your dues, accept the rituals, and by participating in one way or another, you are validated as a person and member of the community.

A church, however, is not organized to validate the individual or even the worshiping community. The church is gathered for the sole purpose of glorifying and praising God. It is true that worshiping does incredibly validate the individual and contribute tremendously to one’s sense of well being and meaning in the world. But that is the effect of worshiping God. It should never be the reason for worshiping God.

The danger really comes when well-intended Christians try to run a church like a club. It is quick to spot because individual personalities loom larger than God. Petty…