Day 17: Formed for God’s Family – 40 Days of Purpose-Driven Life

Purpose #2: You Were Formed for God’s Family

Point to Ponder: I am called to belong, not just to believe.

Verse to Remember: “So in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” — Romans 12:5 (NIV)

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.”

Today’s devotional — on the importance of belonging to a local church — is one of those things that seems so blindingly obvious to me that it hardly bears mentioning. If I want to play football (as, perhaps surprisingly, I did through Junior High ;-), then of course I have to be part of team. Yet, at the same time I do know many genuine Christians don’t feel that way at all, preferring to find “spiritual food” through TV and books. I don’t doubt their faith, but to me it seems like a marriage where each spouse lives in a different country (which actually happens quite a bit in the Indian community, due to visa and work issues). Yes, it is a ‘real’ marriage — and may even be fruitful — but clearly they’re missing out on a huge chunk of reality.

Rick identifies several aspect of that reality, all of which I think are valid:

* A church family identifies you as a genuine believer
* A church family moves you out of self-centered isolation
* A church family helps you develop spiritual muscle
* The Body of Christ needs you
* You will share in Christ’s mission in the world
* A church family will keep you from backsliding

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.