We’ve moved so many times and gone to so many churches while on holidays, that I’ve lost count of the number we’ve attended. I only know it is important to be there. If someone asks me why, I say that my spiritual life is so filled with blank spaces that only other believers can fill. A better description might be that I don’t know or do all that I can or should; other Christians fill in what I lack. Well, not always, but we are a ‘body’ and a family — we need one another.
This was a given in the early church. They didn’t need to be urged or told to be together . . .
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common.” (Acts 2:42–44)
In those days, there was no New Testament, no church buildings, no doctrinal statements, no denominational differences, and no believer isolation. They were together and devoted to learning, sharing Christ and their meals together, and praying for one another. No one had a need because if they did, another believer shared with them.
Some would like the church to return to that NT description, but I’ve never heard any plan to do it that works. Perhaps there is too much history that cannot be changed, or too many variations in the way Christians think church should be. Whatever the case, the most helpful solution is realizing we are one body. Church is not about labels or buildings, programs or faith statements. It is people who love God and have a common reason to exist.
Jesus said that, “True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” (John 4:23) The main purpose of church is to worship God, lift up Jesus Christ, and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Divisions and departures occur for several reasons. A common one is: “church does not meet my needs.” Whatever that might mean for individuals, being together is important toward building our spiritual lives . . .
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:23–25)
When I go to church expecting others to meet my needs, I will always be disappointed because too many of us, me included, are hung up on having our own needs met. God tells me this is not the way He intended church to work:
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:1–4)
In church and in all of life, I am to put others above myself, not to neglect my needs, but consider them less important as well as relying on the Lord to take care of me. There are times when I need help and should not hide that in ‘pious service’ but accept the ministry of my brothers and sisters in Christ. Beside, for the most part, selfish motivation turns into ‘never satisfied’ and grumbling, even minor wars about minor stuff.
We have been in churches with few or no complaints are made. This is a total delight, a place to grow and serve God. However, I notice that I tend to see my own attitude in others. If I start pointing a finger at church members for things I don’t like, I must remember that are more fingers pointing back at me! Some people quit going to church because of this mirror effect, perhaps not realizing the uglies they see are really in themselves.
Church division is also a turn-off. God unites us in Christ and gives us the same Holy Spirit to build that unity. He uses “together” to urge our oneness. However, I’m surprised that God can use division for His purposes . . .
“For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.” (1 Corinthians 11:18–19)
One thing God is teaching me (I am a slow learner) is that when I see something in church that does not sit right, I’m not to grumble, gossip, complain, or stay home. He gives insights for a reason and those are not it. Instead, I am to pray. He calls His church to a high standard and is deeply involved in leading us upward. Any negative responses on my part does not do that, but when I pray, He goes to work on His body, fixing the important issues, bringing us closer to the mark, and dealing with those who are not genuine.
Jesus, staying home from church for any reason takes me out of the work You are doing. It also makes me part of the problem, not a contributor to the solution. Our local church is wonderful and Your great grace is evident in many ways. Enable me to keep on praying and keep on trusting You to build Your Body and make it what You want it to be.