Point to Ponder: I am called to belong, not just to believe.
Question to Consider: Does my level of involvement in my local church demonstrate that I love and am committed to God’s family?
[Read More] thoughts on Day 17 of Rick Warren‘s Purpose-Driven Life* including why a Christian disconnected from a church is like “a football player without a team; a soldier without a platoon; a tuba player without an orchestra; and a sheep without a flock.”
Rick identifies several aspect of that reality, all of which I think are valid:
Ultimately, though, I think there are only two reasons to not commit to a local church: our sin, and their sin. Intriguingly, non-believers will often use both reasons, but Christians usually blame it on the latter. Which seems rather to miss the whole point.
Of course, I’ll be the first to admit that the church can be (and often is) a deeply flawed institution. The fallacy, though, is in thinking that we are not equally flawed. I’m reminded of the man who said, “Why should I go to your church? It’s full of hypocrites.” To which the pastor replied, “On the contrary, there’s always room for one more!” The purpose of church is not to manifest _our_ perfection, but rather to manifest God’s holiness _through_ our mutual brokenness.
At the same time, I’ll admit that there are some churches where I would be (and have been) deeply uncomfortable, where I wasn’t sure we were worshipping the same God! But, in all my travels around the world, I’ve never been to a place where there weren’t *some* believers genuinely trying to find God in Christ, however clumsily. I have been repeatedly amazed how I can walk into an apartment in China, or a grass-roofed hut in Africa, and immediately feel a kinship with people I’ve never met, and may not even be able to speak with. It isn’t about institutional commitment to a religious structure, but a vital relationship with an accountable body of believers.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t have issues with them (or even with my local church). But, it does mean that I accept those issues as _part_ of my purpose for being in that church: to help them grow through their blind spots, even as they help me grow through mine. A friend of mine once shared how she used to complain to God about the problems in our college group, until God said, “My child, I didn’t show you these faults so you could judge them, but so that you could heal them!”
I totally agree with Rick about how “It may seem easier to holy when no one else is around to frustrate your preferences, but that is a false, untested holiness.” As I like to say, never confuse lack of temptation with strength of character.
Prayer: God, talk is cheap. It is all well and good for me to rhapsodize about how important the local church is, but am I living it out? Help me to pray more for my pastors, and to be diligent and creative in my efforts to encourage them. Grant me grace and wisdom to participate in an edifying way within our home group. I thank you for the many ministries and fellowship that have blessed and encouraged me; may I live out my gratitude through the sacrifices I make for the church. Because ultimately the church is Christ’s, not mine or theirs. And it is in His name, and for His glory, that I ask all these things. Amen.