This is a strange day we live in. Many think that we have never had it so bad and have been tempted to give up on the Church – not a good idea! Agreed, the Church is imperfect and not without various problems; but what vibrant relationship is free from conflict?
The comforting truth is that in God’s grace we can all overcome the differences that afflict us and come to maturity, doing what God has called us to do. It starts by learning to be the people that He has freely elected and designed for us to be. (Ephesians 4:13)
The life that faces us as God’s glorious Church is not one of complacency, but one of determined surrender to God’s purposes. We are not only giving of ourselves, but we are also recipients of God’s kindness expressed through others, receiving gifts, love, hospitality and care from one another. And we do it without getting hindered on the way by wrong motives or getting tied up with pride.
The vibrant faith that God gives each of us in the Church(and not apart from each other) builds on, is tightly centred on not just our relationship with Christ, but also on our relationship with each other and is necessary for our personal growth. Even the private aspects of faith building in our lives, require mutual efforts, support and encouragement, so we need church to keep us growing. God is building His Church – it’s an active, focused and determined ongoing action of the Holy Spirit.
We just can’t build an authentic, dynamic and growing faith on our own with out a church family. Scripture warns us against negating our spiritual development or neglecting what God gives. If we refuse to allow His work, allow the dynamics of Church life to touch our lives, then our faith and the future He has for us will not be fully realised, along with the all joy that He has for us.
If we leave the Church, our salvation (if it was for real in the first place) is still intact, but we limit our sanctification and cut ourselves off from God’s reward for being faithful. It’s just not good news and it is a very sad position to be in. We are the worse for refusing His guidance or the fellowship of others (Psalm 137: 5-6; 147:2; Isa 62:5; Gal. 6:24; Heb. 10:10; 13:9-25; Rev. 21: 2-4, 9-27).
Everyone without exception, needs to be a part of the Church. Jesus gave Himself for the church, not the para-church! Para-church leaders of any substance need to be part of the local Church.
The challenge for us is to be committed to our purpose of presenting who we are in Christ, personally and mutually, telling each other what He has done for us, and responding to Him with passion and conviction, letting go of the fears, anxieties and concerns that hinder us.
Church is the place where the mundane gives rise to excitement, the boring develops into challenge, despair translates into exuberant hope, and the disease that causes cutting, idolatrous division ceases. It’s as simple as that. Church is the most exciting place on planet earth. It may not be your experience – but it can be! God is with His Church, and He has a glorious plan for it.
Your local church may have betrayed you, hurt you, underused or overused you – but when you see the glorious Head of the Church you will not let go. The Church IS (no matter what your experience of it may be), the Body of Christ, and in it He is the One who leads, equips, and guides us-as we all desperately need.
It is as we gather as God’s people that we experience and learn how to hear His voice and obey what He calls us to do. We also discover what it is to have an intimate relationship with Him as we hear teaching, testimony and words of encouragement. It can be said of us in the Church that we know Him, He knows us, and we do what He says. Not only that, we are concerned with what concerns Him, and we act accordingly. We want to do the things that please Him, not because we have to, but because we want to – that’s grace at work in our hearts!
For those who don’t belong to a Church the analogy is an easy one, despite their arguments to the contrary; like sheep, we can’t lead ourselves or others with out being for ever lost and unfed (Psalm 23; Isa. 63:11; Jer. 23:1; 31:34; Ezek. 34:6-16, 31; Hos. 6:6; John 10:1-8; 16:13-15; Rom. 10:7).
There’s a good Church somewhere near you – pray and ask God to lead you there!