This past year God has grown in me a deeper love for the local church. This comes from someone who several years ago did not think church attendance and commitment was needed as a Christian. I could feed myself through my own study, listening to sermons on-line and once in a while being a part of a group that met in a home. Let me be clear, that is not church. Those activities cannot become a substitute for the true fellowship of believers in a local church body.
John Piper defines a local church as this:
A local church is a group of baptized believers who meet regularly to worship God through Jesus Christ, to be exhorted from the Word of God, and to celebrate the Lord’s Supper under the guidance of duly appointed leaders.
We cannot fulfill the “one another” commands of the Bible without being a part of a local church. Forty-seven of the ninety-four verses containing this phrase are directed to the church. As a believer we have at least one gift (Romans 12:6-8) to which we are to use within the church body the Lord has placed us in. If we are not exercising our gift within a body of believers, we are not being a good steward to what God has given us.
How do we know when we have lost that loving feeling for the local church? Here are some questions we can ask ourselves:
-Do we criticize our local church more than we build up?
If our mouth is running more negatively about the pastor, the body, the music and the activities of the church then we need to examine where these feelings are coming from.
-Do we only attend on Sunday morning and business meeting?
There is more to being a part of a church body than just warming a pew on Sunday morning. Our spiritual growth and the “one another” commands take place other than that of Sunday morning. Bible studies and church events help us grow in the Lord and encourage one another. It always amazes me how people can come to a business meeting and let their voice be known but we never see them at any other church functions. Where is the commitment?
-Are we still giving financially as we used to?
One sure test is our pocketbooks. If we are becoming lax in our giving, then we are no longer supporting the work of the Lord through our local church.
-Are we involved in making disciples or mentoring someone?
There should come a point when we are no longer the one being discipled/mentored but we are ready to start building into another believer’s life. This does not necessarily mean engaging in a Bible study with someone but for women can also mean the Titus 2 model for women mentoring each other.
As defined by Christ’s command to His disciples, the purpose of the church is to make learning believers—men and women whose lives reflect a deep commitment to and love for the Lord, His Word, and His people.
Believer, have you lost your love and commitment to the local church? What can you do? First of all, repent of any criticizing you have been doing. Pray. Ask the Lord what He would have you to do. It may be you are to leave the church you are currently at and consider another. You may need to recommit yourself to the church body you attend. Get involved in the outreaches and activities of your church. Look around you. Who could you disciple/mentor or if you are young in the Lord who could fill that role in your life?
Paul Tripp in his book Awe says it best:
Yet if your heart is being progressively captured by the awe of God, his work, his grace, and his kingdom (“things that are above”), you will see your church not just as a place you attend but as a major commitment of your life, and you will live with a ministry lifestyle in the place where God has placed you.
May we persevere with a love for the institution of the local church and the brothers and sisters in Christ that God has placed in its midst.