Last weekend, I did something I don’t do often but wish I did more – I went away with the ladies in my church to a retreat center in Pennsylvania. Without kids. (All the mothers in the house said ‘Amen!’).
Our church’s women’s ministry team did a fabulous job of putting the retreat together. The theme was “Belonging” – to Christ and to Christ’s Body.
I was blessed to have the opportunity to share on Sunday morning on the topic of why we as the Body of Christ need one another and the obstacles that can often keep us from connecting to each other.
Belonging Face to Face
When it comes to authentic community, there is no substitute for face to face interaction. It may be tempting to think, “I can just go for a hike on Sunday mornings and connect with God in nature or tune into the podcast of my choosing and receive virtual teaching from the best preachers and teachers available – all while staying in my pajamas.”
Friends, I adore hiking. I love listening to sermons via podcast. But not at the expense of missing out on regularly meeting with my physical church community.
Don’t Be Conformed to the World
Romans 12:1-2 tells us explicitly not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we can test and approve what God’s perfect and pleasing will is for us.
While the world may tell us that the physical and regular gathering of believers together is unnecessary and even irrelevant, that is not what God’s Word tells us:
“and let us consider [thoughtfully] how we may encourage one another to love and to do good deeds, not forsaking our meeting together [as believers for worship and instruction], as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more [faithfully] as you see the day [of Christ’s return] approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25, AMP)
Members in Christ’s Body
1 Corinthians 12 is a great passage of Scripture to read concerning the importance of every member in the Body of Christ. Here the Apostle Paul tells us that:
1) If we have received Christ, we are part of His Body – v 27
2) We each have been given spiritual gifts for the purpose of ministering to others in Christ’s Body – v 7
3) We can’t say that we don’t need the other members of Christ’s Body, because we do – vv.15-26
Reasons We Break Away
If we know that God has declared us to be members in His Body, told us that we need one another and have spiritual gifts that He has specifically given us to serve other believers, and that we ought to encourage and spur one another on in faith, why would we choose not to engage in a local church community?
Here are a few reasons I shared with the women at our retreat this weekend:
1) No Time – in the DC area, time is always running out. We are always catching up and running after the next big work event, the next activity, the next soccer game. All good things that can cause us to put investment in the church community on hold.
Perhaps some time praying through our schedules will show us how we can free up time to engage more readily with other believers?
2) We Go to Church for the Wrong Reasons – let’s face it – we live in a generation that is becoming increasingly “me-centered” and “I-focused” (even in our devices). We want what we want when we want it.
We come to church with a consumer mentality rather than with the attitude that we are here to worship God first and serve others second. I want to burst your bubble on this issue: There is never going to be a perfect local church.
If you like the kids ministry, the worship music won’t fit your tastes and preferences. If you like the worship music, the teaching won’t be to your liking. If you appreciate the people, you may not prefer how long the service goes. And on and on the complaints continue.
3) We’ve Been Offended or Left Out – Maybe we tried going to church and didn’t feel like we fit in. Maybe the people weren’t as friendly or engaging as we had hoped. Maybe someone said or did something to deeply offend us.
I’m not telling you you have to pick one local church and stay there your whole life. I haven’t. But you also shouldn’t pick up and switch churches every time you get offended.
It takes commitment to working through our differences; devoting ourselves to a people and a place for enough time to let our roots go deep that we might experience spiritual growth as a result.
Have you chosen to engage in a local church community? Why or why not?
I want to gently nudge you with this final thought: Relationships are messy. The people in the Church are broken and sinful, just like you. But we all drink from the same Spirit and worship the same Savior.
Before He died on the Cross, Christ prayed that we (Christ’s followers) might be unified as He and the Father are unified. If we are willing to confront our fears, prejudices, insecurities, and personal preferences, we will be set free to discover in a local church a place to truly belong.