“For man to argue, ‘I don’t got to church; I pray alone,’ is no wiser than if he should say, ‘I have no use for symphonies; I believe only in solo music.’” – G.A. Buttrick
“The church is her true self only when she exists for humanity.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Why in the world would I need the church? Maybe that is the question you ask yourself. Its an easy place to go, especially now in the modern age with 10,000 Bible translations, commentaries, podcast, and books at the swipe of a finger. The problem with this question is the assumption that the church merely exists to serve you, complete you, and make you feel better. Don’t get me wrong, the church absolutely is designed by God to, “Equip the saints for the work of the ministry…to build up the body of Christ…till we become unified in faith and mature in Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13). This reality can never take hold until the members of the body of Christ recognize that they exist for the sake of others. You don’t need the church, the church needs you!
We are each uniquely gifted by God to fulfill a powerful transforming roll in others lives. When we come together as the church, wherever that may be: in a building, in a home, in a park, we are brought together by the unifying Spirit of God who uses the divine and sovereign plan of the Father to supply everything we need to reflect the life and reality of the Son of God to one another and to the world around us. This is the beautiful mystery of the church and why the gates of Hell will never prevail against it.
The church is the organic process by which God the Father draws broken and sinful humanity up into the saving life of the Trinity in the power of the Spirit and in the name of His Son. This Trinitarian life transforms humanities’ spiritual, physical, and emotional DNA, and it does not happen without the body functioning at full strength, and to do so, it uses you in your unique gifting.
When we remove ourselves from fellowship in the working life of the body of Christ, we create a malfunction, a deficiency, and a lacking that is felt at every level of the life of the church. In response, the body must compensate and attempt to fill the gaps left by the individuals who withdraw. In so many cases, because of God’s grace, the body is a miraculous organism, that is able to compensate and move as though nothing has changed. However, if vital members continue to deprive the body, then the body begins to operate at a diminished level and seeks to supplement those lacking areas in some pretty troubling ways.
Think of a pregnant mother who is iron deficient, what she needs is iron. She should take supplements, or even eat a big red steak. However, what she ends up craving is dirt! This is not right. It is dysfunctional, and yet what we see in so many churches these days is a craving after things that will not fulfill the deficiency, but instead could be detrimental. All this because a person who is gifted in a certain area begins to believe the lie that, ‘I don’t need the church, and the church don’t need me.’ In reality, life in God is impossible without life in fellowship with His body.
In the New Testament we are given the radical revelation of grace. Paul, the Apostle of the revelation of grace, takes us all the way back through the Old Testament to explain why man’s existence in relationship to God has always been built upon the sovereign grace of God. Grace overtakes the gap between sinful man and a Holy God. It fills in all the cracks and crevices of a relationship broken by sinful rebellion. Interestingly grace is also what is provided in the midst of trial, when we are pressed beyond what we can bear.
In Paul’s desperate moment recorded for us in Second Corinthians chapter twelve, God responds to Paul’s desperate plea by saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2Cor.12:9). In this moment where there is an insurmountable gap between what Paul is facing and what Paul can handle, God’s grace is there to consume the gaps, to bridge the way where there is no way. The word grace in the New Testament is the Greek word charis.
Interestingly enough, Paul uses the Greek word charisma for the word “gifts” in chapter twelve of both Romans and First Corinthians as he explain the gifts and uses of those gifts in the context of the body of Christ. Charisma is the “spiritual gifts” given to the members of the body of Christ to build up and strengthen the church. Gifts like, administration, giving, helps, serving, teaching, exhorting, leadership, faith, miracles, healing, tongues and prophecy to name a few.
Interestingly, charis (grace) is the root word of charisma (gifts). So to apply what we’ve already learned from Paul, these “graces/gifts” of the Spirit are given by God for the consuming, bridging, and overcoming of the gaps in the body of Christ! How amazingly beautiful. So when we cut ourselves off, we are not only damaging ourselves, but depriving the body of what it needs to thrive, the “graces/gifts” we have been given.
So the next time you ponder leaving a church, ditching church, or living apart from the body of Christ, please meditate on the reality of what is lost when we “forsake the assembling ourselves together, as is the manner of some, and we fail to exhort one another [by not coming together] and how fellowship in the body is becoming more and more important as we see the day of the LORD approaching” (Heb.10:25 para). Don’t go to church, be the church, and be a functioning member of a living organism that is revealing the powerful, precious, procuring love of God in Jesus Christ!
A friend asked me to give them some input (I’m always humbled when I’m asked for input) on why we as Christians should commit or belong to a local church. I know there a number of people, who think, “Well I’m saved, that’s the important part, so I can worship God whenever and wherever I want.” Those statements are true, however, it is not the intent or desire of God that we should start and end there.
There are four scriptures (and there are more, but I will use these) that I believe build a solid case for being part of a strong, bible teaching fellowship.
First Jesus says:
Matthew 16:18-19 “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Jesus is saying that in the “church” there is protection and inheritance of the power of God. Additionally we see that the concept of “My church” is not man’s idea, rather it is Jesus’ (God’s) idea. Finally, I believe that when we say “I don’t need to fellowship with other believers”, we are walking contrary to God’s plan.
Secondly, the writer of Hebrews (which I believe to be Paul) says:
Hebrews 3:12-15 “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.””
What we see here is that there is support in numbers. We are called to exhort (to urge and advises) one another. You can’t do that if you’re talking to yourself. We have tendency to be either to hard on ourselves or not hard enough. I believe we are being told here to take preventative action to insure we don’t fall into sin.
Thirdly, Paul tells us:
Colossians 2:8-10 “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”
He is telling us that we need to stay grounded in Christ. It keeps us from deceit and false doctrine of the world. Christ dwells fully in the body of Christ.
Lastly, Paul tells us this:
Ephesians 4:11-16 “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
There is a body, it is diverse, it needs to work in concert with the other parts so that we are trained and equipped for THE WORK of THE MINISTRY (emphasis mine). I believe that Jesus summed up the work of the ministry in Matthew:
Matthew 28:18-20 “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.”
Jesus is saying that the work of the ministry is this; disciples making disciples. We are to go, make disciples, baptize, teach to obey Jesus, repeat. Pretty hard to do if you are a loner…….
Grace and Peace , John Shaw
1Co 12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
1Co 12:13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
1Co 12:14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many.
1Co 12:15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.
1Co 12:16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.
1Co 12:17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?
1Co 12:18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.
1Co 12:19 If all were a single member, where would the body be?
1Co 12:20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
1Co 12:21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
1Co 12:22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,
1Co 12:23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty,
1Co 12:24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it,
1Co 12:25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
1Co 12:26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
1Co 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
1Co 12:28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.
1Co 12:29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?
1Co 12:30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?
1Co 12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. (ESV)
Beautifully after these verses Paul a teaches on what love is. Which works so wonderfully with any teaching about how we as Christians should function together.
For truly the Love of God,that is his love in us is the chief motivator for every thing in his name.(Col.3:17) As Christians we also understand that it is not our Agenda we are promoting. So weather all in our local assembly catch the whole of how God would call us to live, we still have needs answer the call to walk as Christ in this world.
One of the things I like about this line of scripture is that it is written with the thought in mind that we are irrevocably one. Because God has designed the body of Christ a certain way that it is at it’s best when we recognize each other who are in Christ. The way I see this verse is that even if we don’t want to acknowledge that we are part of the body of Christ it doesn’t make us any less a part. So that people who are in fact Christian but choose not to be a committed part of a local ‘Gathering’ rob the church and themselves of a fullest of lives in Christ.
God himself has set up the DNA of how each part of the Church should function. In this way even though someone may not have a certain gifting or calling it doesn’t make that one not a part of the church.
In fact I’m finding nowadays that even if I have a gifting to preach and teach that it’s out let may not be in the church that I am committed to. Even during this season I know that God is teaching me to be a better writer so that I can share the Gospel on a blog like this one. And I have a chance to encourage others who have a strong gift to write and give them a platform to develop their gifting.
So what is your place in your local fellowship? Have you ever thought about acting as an intern in children or youth ministry committing for a month or two to get the feel of it to see if there might be a calling there. Or maybe you are good at putting together events. Maybe you could be in charge of supply’s for the church just going out and doing the monthly or weekly shopping that the Pastor of his wife may have been doing. Perhaps there is someone doing double duty in a ministry and you could take a task off his or her hands.
There are so many function even in small home churches that ‘each one’ could fill.
So what about you?
Where are you in the active member groove?
Ready to get off the bench and get in the game?
For the next few post I will be featuring writers who are in my circle of friends.They will be Christians in different stages of their walk with God and they will be giving there perspective in answering this question: Why is it important to be apart of a church?:
Human beings are created with the need to belong. We belong to our parents, we belong to our spouses, we belong to our culture. As creatures of habit we naturally gravitate to people, places and things that give us that familiar feeling of being connected, of belonging to someone and something. As Christians we recognize this need to belong, as the longing to be reconnected with God. It is not always necessary to be in a church or be a part of one in order to have a close personal relationship with Christ but it is vital to our growth process as Christians. We are to search God’s word and pray without ceasing but we are also told that “instruction of the wise is like a life-giving fountain; those who accept it avoid the snares of death”Proverbs 13:14.
Like little sponges, we soak up the energy and information around us. Because of this we see God has given us 1 John 2:15-16 “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.” When you become apart of a church, you become apart of a family with the same goal and that is to love the Lord our God with all our hearts and to spread the Good Word! You also have people who are willing to help you get in line with God’s word because we can all get a little sidetracked. Being apart of a church allows us to belong to something and it helps us be accountable to our flesh in ways that we would not be able to in any other setting.
“Joyful are those who obey His laws and search for Him with all their hearts.” Psalms 119:2. New Christians especially, need guidance. They need to be directed as it is a new life, far from the one they were already living. I have tried pursuing God many times on my own and I can tell you that it is not as simple as it sounds. The devil works hard to keep us out of heaven and his greatest weapon is to use God’s word to misguide us and deceive us. This isn’t because God’s word is deceitful but because as humans, we can be easily manipulated by our own interpretations. Church is not a building! Church is a gathering of people who come together in the name of our Mighty Savior. We come to serve and to worship, to fellowship and to learn but mostly to be filled with the Holy Spirit who renews us and connects us in the very way we were designed to be connected.
John 17:11 -And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.
I read this verse and I think to myself…..”this is a powerful invitation that Christ is giving us.”That we may be one with him as he is one with the God the father. Of all the prayers Jesus prayed I’ve got a loud ‘amen!’ for this one. To be involved with the Godhead on this level is a mind-boggling thought.
Yet we read it so quickly with out considering the implications. Or the process involved.
Gods process to aid man in answering the invitation to fellowship with God the Father, Son and Spirit. It is the means by which God himself begins trans forming Christians into a being fit to be in this kind of fellowship with His Holy self. And it is during this process that we experience a growing intimacy with him. Because of his love and perfect knowledge…..God knows he is the best thing for us.
I’d like to share one view of what sanctification is in this post Written by Justin Taylor……
Here are two good answers.
First, the Westminster Shorter Catechism (question 35) answers that sanctification is: the work of God’s free grace [2 Thess. 2:13] whereby weare renewed in the whole man after the image of God [Eph. 4:23-24], andare enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness [Rom. 6:4, 6; 8:1]
Anthony A. Hoekema (1913-1988), in Saved by Grace, defines it as follows: That gracious operation of the Holy Spirit,involving our responsible participation,by which he
- delivers us from the pollution of sin,
- renews our entire nature according to the image of God, and
- enables us to live lives that are pleasing to him.
And here is a helpful chart from Andy Naselli’s helpful Let Go and Let God? showing a bit of the diversity of the way the concept is understood in the NT:
|Initial sanctification (occurs simultaneously with justification and regeneration)||Progressive sanctification||Perfect, complete, or final sanctification (i.e., glorification)|
|“I am (or have been) sanctified.”||“I am being sanctified.”||“I will be sanctified.”|
|Sets a believer apart positionally from sin’s penalty and/or experientially from his “old man” in Adam (Rom. 6; Acts 20:32;26:18; 1 Cor. 1:2; 6:11; Heb. 10:10,14)||Sets a believer apart from sin’s power and practice (John 17:17; 2 Cor. 3:18;7:1; Phil. 1:6)||Sets a believer apart from sin’s presence and possibility (Rom. 8:29-30; Phil. 3:21;1 Thess. 3:12-13;Jude 24)|
I’ve tried to post in bite sized portions to leave room for meditation.
So what do you think? Is this understanding part of the march toward Personal Revival?
Jeremiah, 18:1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD:
2. “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.”
3. So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel.
4. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.
5. Then the word of the LORD came to me:
6. “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.
I have trust issues. There are days or moments in a day when I act without remembering that God has a purpose for my life. There are times I try to raise my children in my own strength. I try to make ‘good’ things happen on my job.
Lead astray by my good intentions….. trying to do a God thing my way. Looking for an easy way to do a hard thing not keeping in mind that through the blood of Jesus I belong to God Himself.
I forget some days that I was bought for a price and I don’t own myself anymore. (1Co_6:20) I have a trust issues when I feel the pressure of His loving hands begin to shape me into something far away from what I thought I could be. I’ve seen times when I hear Him call and try to fulfill it in my own power. (Galatians 3:3) No wonder I am so weary. So this day I turn to Him like at the first day he broke into ‘my life’ that had me captive. I return so that I will know that I am in His hands. So that I can be subject to his will that brings times of refreshing and strengthening in Him.
So I pray afresh to be revived and empowered for his good purposes. To be his voice in the middle of struggles. To be his hands while working His work His way. So come the God who restores and causes even those things that are spoiled in his hand to have purpose and beauty again.
Are you hungry to be remade even though you are marred in his hands?
Do you desire to quietly be revived by Him?
Have you lost that first love for God while serving Him?
Let us return to the narrow path carved out by the creator of all things.