Welcome back to the series where we are examining those activities and pursuits in our day-to-day lives which we can not afford to sacrifice in order to make time for other pursuits. Thus far, we have introduced the series and talked about both prayer and time in the Word as activities which we cannot afford to forsake. That brings us to our third Non-Negotiable – church.
In My Testimony, I talk about the general distrust I has of the church prior to accepting Christ as Lord and Savior. The history of atrocities and abuses committed in the name of the church is undeniable. Furthermore, there is no doubt that such abuses and atrocities continue today in so called churches around the world. All of that to illustrate that I did not come from a place where the church was prominent in my life. Indeed, my relationship with the church has been an area where God has worked mightily in my own life. I have gone from a true skeptic of organized religion to such an extent that God worked through a very atypical church to draw me to himself in the first place to someone who has become a member of a local church and a proponent of regular church attendance. My love for Jesus has manifested itself in a love for his church. That said, it is still easy to miss church, or not get involved enough, or make excuses not to participate – something which we can really not afford to do.
God did not create us to live the lives of hermits. He created us to be in relationships with one another. As Christians, this is accomplished primarily through families and the local church. We will deal with family later in this series, but today let’s look at the need to the local church.
Now, let me preface this whole discussion by saying that the church, and church attendance, is not the answer for all that ails you. In can not be. A church is made up of sinners just like you and just like me which means that the church is anything but perfect. It is impossible to find the perfect church. If you do, your mere presence there makes it imperfect. That all said, church gives us the chance to build relationships with other imperfect people who are seeking a common goal – to follow and build a relationship with the only one who is perfect – Jesus Christ.
So, what are the benefits of being part of a local church that make it a non-negotiable? First and foremost, we feed on God’s Word through the preaching ministry of the church. It is possible to feed on God’s Word ourselves through daily reading of our Bibles, but the weekly sermon should be a time where we are taught and taken to deeper level than we could get to ourselves. Secondly, church gives us the opportunity to build long-lasting relationships with fellow Christians that are essential to our continued spiritual growth and discipleship. As we discuss spiritual and theological issues with the people we meet through church, we grow in our relationships with Christ. Finally, the local church, and the relationships that we find there, serve to impose some accountability and authority in our lives. In an age when authority has become a dirty word, church is all the more important. The Bible says that we are influenced by the people we choose to hang around with which means that it is critical that we find people who are also sold out for Christ to associate with.
For many of us who work in children’s ministry, church attendance can be even more of a struggle. This is particularly true for those in smaller churches which may only offer one service each weekend. It is impossible to both serve in the children’s ministry and attend the weekly service. In that circumstance, I would make the following suggestions. First, make sure to get copies of the sermons to listen to at some other time. In this technological age that we live in, there is no reason why you should miss a sermon all together. Second, join a small group or any other mid-week type programs that you can attend. Relationships can be fostered in these groups which you can attend and still participate in your ministry on the weekend. Third, find a way to go to the service. Take a week off each month from the children’s ministry, entrust it to those who work for you, and dedicate that weekend to just being a member of your church and not just a minister of it. The fact of the matter is – we are all willing to make sacrifices for the things that are important to us. We just need to put church and church attendance in a position of importance such that we are willing to make that sacrifice. It is difficult, if not impossible, to love Jesus Christ without loving his bride. With all of her flaws and imperfection, the church is meant by God to be an integral part of our lives.