Lenten Devotions 2015: Why bother with a local church?

ojRQoUyMany surveys tell us that the number of people regularly attending a church is steadily declining. Not many who call themselves Christian have any active relationship with or participation in a local church. I meet such “Christians” almost every day. When asked the reason of their absence from the church, many say, “Oh the church is full of hypocrites.” And I often counter them by responding: “Hey, let that not bother you, as we always have room for one more!”

Well, jokes apart, association with a church is a serious matter. What you think of the church and what it looks like in your neighborhood does not alter the necessary place of the church in God’s economy of salvation. To God, church is the primary institution through which he is working out his plan of salvation and establishing his kingdom. It is another matter, for another day, that the almighty God cannot be confined to the church. He can and often does use people, movements, and institutions outside the church to fulfill his mission. However, his primary concern is with what the church does and does not do until the second coming of Jesus Christ. Therefore, a follower of Jesus Christ must find a local church to be in a regular fellowship with it.

We are socially inclined to seek other human beings and to live in relationships with them. We have been created this way. From the beginning, God desires for us to have companionship:

“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner” (Genesis 2: 18 NRSV).

The author of Letter to the Hebrews, in the New Testament, instructed the followers of Christ:

“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10: 24-25 NRSV).

One of the most interesting ironies of today is that we live in a world swamped by the impersonal social media but without enough time to have personal, one on one interactions, and fellowship with one another. A local church has provided this opportunity for social interaction, fellowship, and spiritual growth for the past 2000 years or so. The church is far from being perfect; however, it is sanctified enough to sharpen us spiritually, to hold us accountable in our relationship to God and to each other, and to encourage or spur us when we need it most. Yes, I understand, you personally know several churches and ministers, who have lost the way. They are no longer worth your time and support. However, let us not throw the baby out with the bath water by completely neglecting to have fellowship with a local church due to some wrong people. We are often committed or loyal to our gym, social club, credit cards, banks, airlines, grocery stores, medical clinic, school/university, and most often to our favorite sport teams. Are they all perfect? Is there no corruption in their daily business or leadership? No. We do not abandon our favorite team just because they have lost most games in a season. However, when it comes to a local church, we leave it and its God appointed leaders in the lurch at the drop of a hat.

If today you do not fully take part in a local church, and as you have been praying, fasting, and reading the Scriptures this Lent, may the Lord lead you to a godly local church. May you be plugged in there to be a blessing to others. However, as my seminary president used to say, if you do find a perfect church please do not join it because you would make it imperfect! 🙂

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