Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Loyalty and Your Local Church

I have been a pastor's kid for most of my life. Needless to say, I have really only attended one church in my life. As a child I would suddenly stop seeing some of my friends at Sunday-School. When I would ask where they were, the response was typically "I don't think that family is coming to our church anymore." As a child this response was lame, and it didn't excuse the present void of friendship.

Let's be honest, when it comes to local churches in first-world-countries, we have more options than might be good for us. We have all types of denominations, and the ever increasing denominational and doctrinal ambiguity of non-denominational churches. Within each denomination lies an array of movements and denominational subsidiaries. Small churches. Large churches. Jumbo churches. Buffet anyone?

The church of God isn't a buffet, but with so many options, it can feel that way. Furthermore, with the marvel of the Internet, some say a physical congregation is unnecessary.

The church is the universal body of baptised believers, with Christ as the supreme authority. For practical reasons, there are local churches, where believers meet and congregate.

She is a precious thing, and Christ Himself died to redeem her. Let us not easily and flippantly criticize the bride of Christ. Ultimate dedication is to Christ, but there is also loyalty to our local church.

Meeting in a local church is necessary, and a commandment. (Hebrews 10:24-25) The word ekklÄ“sia implies a called out local assembly. 

The church has a purpose on earth, and it is revealed in the New Testament. It is to edify and purify the believers (Eph 4:12-16), to evangelize the world with the gospel (Matt 28:19), and to act as a force of good (Gal 6:10).

The right church is the church that is Christ centered, Biblically solid, edifying and purifying the believers, evangelizing the world, acting as a force of good, and is a place where believers can fulfill these rolls. If the church you are currently attending is striving for these rolls, and is a place where you can fulfill these rolls, then this is your church. Look no further.

It is so easy to begin to hop around and run from our church "problems" because there are so many options afforded to us. 

You don't fit in? That's fine, there has to be a church in your area with people just like you. You don't agree with the churches worship style? That's fine, there are 42 other church "worship styles." You had an argument with a member? That's fine, you can find another church with a new members. 

But it's not fine. Leaving your place of work interrupts the work in the church. Leaving your place of growth interrupts growth in the church.

Preferences and lack of unity are not reasons for leaving a church. Paul continually exhorts believers to remain in unity with one another (Rom 15:5, Eph 4:3, Phil 2:1-2, ), and to love one another (Rom 12:10, Gal 5:13, 1 Thess 3:12). We may disguise our lack of unity and love as deeper and more significant issues, but rarely do deeper issues become grounds for separation when unity and love is valued at the level that Paul valued it. Let us be clear, unity is not complete agreement over every secondary issue. Unity is loving Christ, His work, and His church above the secondary issues.

Leaving churches often keeps believers from developing deeper friendships. Leaving churches often keeps a believer from being under true church leadership. Leaving churches often keeps believers from being able to exercise his/her spiritual gifts. 

Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. When we leave a church for wrong reasons, we give up the church for ourselves. We should love the church, and give ourselves (including our differences) up for her. Christ had ultimate dedication to His church, and even though He might not agree with everything that His church has done, He nonetheless gave Himself up for her.

There are no doubt several very legitimate reasons why a believer would stop meeting with a local church. However, those reasons are very few and rare when unity and love are made the central motive behind church loyalty. 

The Church of Christ is precious; let us not usurp it's work through our disloyalty and disunity. Love your church like Christ loved His. 

- Jerry

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