In a time where many have abandoned church membership and Christian fellowship, even though we are commanded by the Lord Himself not to, I want to simply explain why I belong to a local church.
Let’s face this from the very start. There is no perfect church filled with perfect people. No matter what church I would belong to anywhere on the face of the earth, I would not agree with everything that is preached, taught, or done. But it’s not about ME. MY responsibility as an individual is to test everything and for ME to only hold onto that which is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The church is made up of fallible individuals from the pastor on down. Testing everything against Scripture is a vital part of each one of our Christian walks. It causes each one of us to dig deep in the Word of God and to stay deep in the Word of God. But it does not give each of us a license to shoot at everything that we do not agree with.
I will not dwell much on this subject, but if you are either the head of or part of a small fellowship, make sure that it is because of pure motives and not as a result of breaking away from a larger fellowship because of disagreements. The Lord knows if there is even a hint of rebellion and sooner or later the Lord will deal with it.
Because God already knew we have to face some really difficult people in our life, even in church, look what His Word tells us:
Be of the same mind toward one another. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. (Romans 12:16a & 18 NKJV)
I am glad that I got it out of the way that I do not live in utopia because there are no perfect churches or perfect membership rolls. As a matter of fact, I found out to my dismay that I am not perfect myself. So now I want to tell you why being part of a local church body is so important. ‘No man is an island’ as the saying goes. The Bible re-enforces that:
- Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15 NKJV)
- If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters. (1 John 4:20, 21 NLT)
If you are a Christian who is not part of a viable fellowship with a leadership structure because you do not believe in it or have abandoned it, I have a question for you. Why do you even want to go to Heaven? You will be surrounded by these same people you do not want to be around on this earth. This question is not to be mean or judgmental. It’s just to make you think.
There was a song made famous in 1964 with the words, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world!” Paul in Romans 12 was saying this same thing, but with church members in mind. Read it carefully and you will see that Paul is clearly referring to conduct inside the church, not outside, even though many things need to spill into the outside world:
Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. (Romans 12:4-18 NLT)
Now to tell you a little about my church. Yes I refer to it as ‘my church’ because I am a part of it. To start with, my pastor is quite different from any minister that I have ever met before. Notice how I did not say my pastor is ‘better’. I have literally listened to hundreds of ministers, including all of the ones that head mega ministries. Teaching about God and the Bible is one thing. But helping people to experience the glorious attributes of our Creator, Savior and LORD is a whole other realm.
My pastor has a way of bringing the glorious attributes of the Lord alive. He can be likened to Moses when he was hid in the crevice of the rock. Only difference is that my pastor pleads with the Lord to allow those in his congregation to join him. Whenever we are together corporately, the Lord passes by and shares His glorious presence. It goes well beyond any normal preaching or teaching or even gifts of the Holy Spirit. Read the following account:
How will anyone know that you look favorably on me—on me and on your people—if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.” The Lord replied to Moses, “I will indeed do what you have asked, for I look favorably on you, and I know you by name.” Moses responded, “Then show me your glorious presence.” The Lord replied, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will call out my name, Yahweh, before you. For I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose. As my glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. (Exodus 33:16-19, 22 NLT)
We need to be very careful when we come to know the Word of God backwards and forwards, especially when we get older. This does not matter whether you are a world-renowned Bible teacher or just your everyday Christian who sits in a pew. We must make sure that we intimately know the Lord of our life and not just know about Him:
You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! (James 2:19 NKJV)
Even though the Holy Spirit resides within each and every Christian, there is a special intimacy in corporate worship that cannot be duplicated on the individual level. This past week in service it was truly moving when a time was set aside for congregants to share how they were facing some tough obstacles ahead. The church came together as we prayed, wept, and encouraged one another.
A person may receive tidbits of food by listening or watching their favorite ministry on TV, radio, or the Internet. But if that is the extent of their church experience, they will find they are slowly starving them self. The only way they will be nurtured properly is the Lord’s way amongst a body of fellow believers. It’s not only about receiving, but it’s also about giving of yourself. This does not exist with any of the media ministries.
Almost convinced? Your only problem now is there are some people who have been mean to you in the church in the past. Sorry, but we all have people who have hurt us real bad and never repented. Just keep in mind, that’s why we are called a ‘Christian’ so each of us can rise above that. Besides that, if it happens at work, do you just stop going?
Hope to see you in church!