Theology Thursday: Attending a Local Church
I think it is important to note that all of the kids and employees who work on Sunday morning at All Things New attend a local church. Church in Haiti is slightly different because it is one of the main sources of social and spiritual life in Haiti, but there are times when our kids would rather stay in and sleep. Do we let them? No. Church is too important, and we hope this blog explains why we believe that.
Today's Theology Thursday has to do with a phenomenon that was definitely prevalent before Covid and then was greatly accelerated by a worldwide pandemic. What I am talking about is people, oftentimes self-proclaimed Christians, leaving the local church and practicing their faith on their own.
What I want to do in today's blog is to talk about how utterly ridiculous that is from a Biblical standpoint, from a logical standpoint, and then share a little of my testimony about the local church.
First of all, just to make sure nobody believes that the word "church" or "ekklesia" in the New Testament always means the church universal, let's consider these 2 facts:
1. When we are told to exercise our spiritual gifts, when Jesus says that unrepentant sinners are to be brought in front of the church, when it talks about assembling together, etc. the Bible is clearly referring to local congregations and not the universal church of all Christ followers.
2. The word "ekklesia," way more often than not, refers to a local congregation of "called-out" believers and much more rarely to the universal church.
From a Biblical standpoint, it is crystal clear that delivers met together as local, physical manifestations of the church universal. It looked different back then, there were no real church buildings and most people met together in homes, but it is clear that Christians did meet together and very regularly. For us to come to a point in time in our life, right now, and say that the church is too "messed up" or that we can do better outside of the church is not only intensely arrogant, it is also clearly against what the Bible wants for us.
From a logical standpoint, I cannot imagine anyone could think of a good reason a Christian should not attend a local church. You can always find a place where other believers will encourage you, lift you up, help you use your gifts, and much more. Are churches messed up? Absolutely. But the positive aspects of a church greatly outweigh the negatives. If you want to get stronger, join a gym. If you want to get better at tennis, join a league. If you want to get smarter, join a class. If you want to lose more weight, join a group of people losing weight. If you want to have a greater likelihood of failing at any of these things...Do them by yourself. If you want the best chance to grow in your relationship in Christ, join a church of believers who can hold you accountable, build you up, and give you a place to use the gifts that GOD has given you.
My own testimony about the importance of church was greatly changed about 8 years ago when we first moved to Haiti. Prior to that I had worked as a staff member in churches starting at the age of 18 when I interned for the youth pastor at FBC LaGrange. I was always "forced" to go to church because that was my job. Then we moved to Haiti. We still went to church, but we were the only Americans in almost every church we attended, and when finally settled into a church, it was not the same. We could not get too involved because we traveled a lot and we were looked at differently than the rest of the congregation.
Since Covid and the political unrest have had us back in America a lot, I have also seen how difficult it can be to get yourself involved in a church. With 3 very young children and traveling, it seems like something always comes up. We have also noticed that, if you are trying to break into a new church, it can be really difficult from a social and cultural (I mean each church has its own culture) standpoint to make friends and be accepted. All of that to say that it can be difficult to get involved in a church.
I will also say, after not really having a consistent church family for the past 7 years, it is one of the most important things in the world for a follower of Christ. I am going to go ahead and speak to anyone who is not currently involved in a local body of believers and I am going to say this clearly and simply:
- YOU NEED TO BE INVOLVED IN A CHURCH!
Is any church perfect? No. In fact, David Platt has said, "If you ever find a perfect church, turn around and run as fast as you can. Because your mere presence in that church will immediately cause it to cease to be perfect."
Are there hypocrites, liars, cheaters, fakes, etc.? Absolutely 100% of the time yes. We are humans. In fact, when you get involved in a church for the first time, if there were no liars, cheaters, thieves, or fakes there to start with...Guess What?...There are now.
Do churches and pastors mess up and lead churches down the wrong road? Yes. But failing together and pulling each other up and learning from that failure is one of the ways that we grow.
Here are my closing 3 things:
1. If you are not a follower of Christ...Let's talk. Jesus is the answer to every problem and He is our hope for eternity. If you do not know Him, that is the first step.
2. If you know Jesus and you are not involved in a local congregation then I can say with full confidence that this is one area of your life that you should change. Find a local group of believers and live your life on mission with them.
3. If you are a part of a church and nobody knows who you are and you do not know anyone else, either change your position in that church or change your church. Be somewhere where you are known, held accountable, and where you give your life to the other people in that congregation.
These things do not happen overnight, but they should happen, and I encourage everyone reading this (including myself) to find a church and plug in.