Our son Grant and family were here for a week and then our daughter-in-law, Arika, and granddaughter, Lacey, returned to Oregon on the train so Lacey could attend Bible camp last week. Grant and our grandson, Luke, stayed until this past Saturday to help us with work projects, which we very much appreciated since I am still recovering from shoulder surgery. They headed back on Saturday so they wouldn’t miss church on Sunday!
That was a real encouragement to us to see how important attending church is to them. They are part of a church with a fantastic Bible teacher who preaches for a full hour as he preaches through the Bible on Wednesday night, Saturday night and Sunday morning (three services). Obviously, God’s Word, when taught clearly and authoritatively, still meets needs as it always has and always will.
Unfortunately, for many Christians today, attending church consistently is not a priority—is not an important part of their week. Church, to them, has become more of a “convenience store” if they attend at all. Some professing Christians attend only twice a year—Christmas and Easter. Then there are those who only go twice in their lifetime—to get married and to get buried, when it takes six strong men to take them to church!
There are many who have had a bad church experience so have dropped out completely. But I doubt if they quit eating because their mother or wife burned the biscuits! Others think they really don’t need church to grow as a Christian so have become “Lone Rangers,” trying to go it alone, with no support group or accountability or opportunity to use the gifts God has given them. Perhaps those who don’t think they need church don’t think much of the One who founded it (cf Mt. 16:18)!
While there are no perfect churches because they are made up of imperfect people, it happens to be the institution through which Christ has chosen to carry out His continued ministry on earth until He comes in the air to take the Church to heaven. (In fact, if you find a “perfect” church, please don’t join it—you’ll ruin it!) While every true, born-again believer is a member of the universal church, the local church (or assembly) is the visible church made up of professing believers who have banded together for worship, instructions and service (cf Acts 2:38-47). The assembly might meet in a public building or in a home (Acts 11:22; 14:23; Ro. 16:1,5; I Cor. 1:2; Col. 4:5; Rev. 1-3). Most of Paul’s letters were addressed to local assemblies of believers who gathered for the following purposes: Instruction (Eph. 4:11-16), Fellowship (koinonia = sharing with; having in common; partnership…Acts 4:31-35), Prayer (Acts 4:31-33), Praise (Acts 2:46,47; Psa. 147:1; 149:1; 150), Mutual Edification (Eph. 4:11-16; Ro. 12:10-13; I Cor. 12:4-7). Encouragement and Stimulation to action (Heb. 10:24,25), Evangelizaton (equipped for rescue work outside the church walls…Acts 1:8; Mt. 28:19; II Cor. 5:17-20) and Missions (sending and supporting missionaries…Phil. 4:10-18).
Ron Hutchcraft in a recent “A Word With You” devotional, spoke of how we are “Built to Be Attached.” He used the analogy of how branches must stay attached to the tree if they are going to be full of life, grow and bear fruit. Similarly, “believers in Jesus Christ are built to be attached to His Body which He called the church. And when they’re not, they start dying…God intended following Jesus to be a team sport.” Some have distanced themselves from the team and are trying to make it a solo sport, but it doesn’t work that way. “Jesus set up His church as the place where you can worship Him with your spiritual family, where you can serve Him, where you participate in the spiritual obediences like communion and baptism, where you get to know people that you need and who need you.” Maybe you’ve been hurt by fellow believers or church leaders and have become disillusioned, maybe even embittered. “But you can’t just stay there. You may find a different body of believers to be a part of, but not being a part of one is just not an option for a believer who claims to be following Christ. If your eyes have been on people, or on your wounds, on the things that are wrong with a church, well then, you will tend to directly disobey our Lord and ‘give up the habit of meeting together’ (Heb. 10:24,25).” The church isn’t perfect but it is the institution Jesus has chosen to work through on earth. It is our spiritual “home” on earth. If you’ve been away, it’s time to come home.
“The church has many critics, but no rivals” (George Sweeting”). A good indication of our spiritual temperature is our eagerness to go to church. The Psalmist, David, wrote: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD’” (Psa. 122:1). Psalm 84, which expresses the pilgrim’s passion for God’s house, includes these statements: “My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the LORD…How blessed are those who dwell in Thy house! They are ever praising Thee…For a day in Thy courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God, than dwell in the tents of wickedness.”
“If the church is central to God’s purpose, as seen in both history and the gospel, it must surely also be central to our lives. How can we take lightly what God takes seriously? How dare we push to the circumference what God has placed at the center?” (John Stott). Remember: CH__ __CH means little unless UR in it!