“Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.”
The Church was not a human idea. It was conceived in the heart of God.Mustard Seed Blog
When people ask you, ‘what church do you go to?,’ what is your answer? This might sound a bit pernickety, but there’s a vast difference between going to, and belonging to, church. Let me explain.
Church ‘goers’ are danger of developing a consumerism approach to the church. I often hear statements such as “I left my last church because I just wasn’t being fed,” “My needs were not being met,” “I didn’t like the way things were being run.”
Though these may well be valid points, I wonder did it ever occur to the disgruntled churchgoer to stay, put down roots, roll up their sleeves and be part of the solution?
We don’t go to church, we are the church
“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”Ephesians 1:5
When I became a Christian, I became a part of the Body of Christ. I was born again as a new creation and legally adopted by God into His own family, as Ephesians 1:5 tells us. My biological family name was granted to me automatically when I was born; no one can ever take that away from me. It’s mine by right. Similarly, when I was born again through faith in Jesus Christ, I was given the ‘family name,’ Christian. I am part of the family of God.
We are designed to be connected; to belong. We belong to each other. This means: I share ownership, I have a legitimate place, I share responsibility, I have a role, I share in the corporate vision and common purpose we have as a family, I can let my guard down, I can be vulnerable. I am accepted, valued and significant.
“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near”
Also see 1 Corinthians 12:12
The Ones Who Disconnect
Meeting other Christians for coffee and ‘fellowship’, listening to podcasts of my favourite preacher or playing worship music in my house all day long, when I have disconnected myself from church family, does not demonstrate that I’m still a passionate follower of Jesus. Sadly, all it shows is that I’ve become a lonely, less effective one. Can we be a Christian and not go to church? Yes, technically. But how can we can’t have a proper relationship with Jesus when we’re out of relationship with His beloved bride, the Church?
To live a Christian life alone is counter productive and contrary to everything the Bible teaches us. Proverbs 18:1 tells us: “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgement.” The thing is, people are flawed. I’m flawed. So are you. We frequently make a hash of relationships. But to disconnect myself from church, or to hop from church to church, never building real friendships can be more detrimental to my spiritual wellbeing than connecting to a ‘flawed’ community of believers. The Bible has no teaching on solo Christianity. God has gifted each member of His body to serve one another; to build one another up; to encourage one another; to LOVE one another. Therefore, I don’t think I’m sticking my neck out by saying that it is impossible to be a solo Christian.
That said, I do want to say here, that by ‘flawed’ community, I am not talking about erroneous doctrine. I’m talking about being truthful about our shortcomings in the light of the grace and mercy of God. If you’re in a church that teaches and practices anything contrary to the Word of God, I would say to you, ask God to shine the light of His Word on this, and lead you. (Another reason why it is so important for Christians to read and study the Bible, but that’s for another blog post.)
The New Testament is filled with descriptions of what the followers of Jesus did in the weeks following His resurrection. It gives us a model of how the experience of being part of the church, could and should be: They shared meals together, they were hospitable, they prayed and worshipped together, they learned from their leaders, they didn’t hold too tightly onto possessions, but shared what they had with each other.
Were they perfect? Hardly! The New Testament is not a story of an idealised church where everything ran smoothly all the time. They were no different to you or me; and in many ways life was so much harder for them.
Will I get hurt in church? The short answer is, probably – because people are people. But we are not given the option to go it alone; we are commanded to love one another and the Holy Spirit gives us the tools we need to work through our interpersonal issues, forgive each other and ‘do life’ together: see Galatians 5:22-23
The Church is part of God’s eternal plan
“God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Ephesians 3:10-11
Jesus delights in His Church. His grace runs through our imperfect, but redeemed lives. The church is a community of imperfect people, made righteous and being perfected through Christ. Of course, community can be messy and painful; people sin. Even leaders sin.
Jesus started the church with imperfect people and today it is still filled with imperfect people, like you and me. It’s only because of God’s incredible grace and mercy that He chooses broken human beings like us, to showcase his grace in a world in need of redemption. Every single one of us is a work in progress; imperfect but made righteous in God’s sight.
There is one thing thing I would change about my own church: Me. But thankfully God is the one doing that work!
If you are a Christian and don’t belong to a local church body, I urge you to find one with good, solid Biblical teaching, and put down roots there. If you have lost your sense of belonging, I would implore you to make every effort to reconnect to your church family. You belong!