Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Your Local Church

There seem to have been a lot of posts recently on the blogs that I follow about the local church. Interesting how God works, leading different Christians in different locations, most of whom have never met or even know of each other to focus on the same subject. Having spent over a year in search of the right church for my wife and I to join, and having become members within the last 6 months, it is a subject I have given plenty of thought to.

During the time of searching (much of which consisted of "scouting" church web sites during the week and attending a different church every Sunday morning) I went though a goodly amount of soul searching as to that selection. At some points I wondered whether I was being too picky about certain things we deemed important, but were not actually issues of doctrine. At other times I wondered if it would be better for us to just continue endlessly attending a different church each week because we could not find one we agreed with in all areas. One thing that we never did consider though, was calling it quits on attending services altogether!

Hebrews 10:24-25 "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching."

Though we have this biblical command not to forsake the assembling together,attending church services is something that has never been a burden since I became a Christian about 8 years ago. In fact, I tend to think that anyone who doesn't have the strong "desire" to attend services at least once a week has fallen victim to one of two possible maladies.

The first possibility is that you have managed to "ween" yourself from church services. The world we live in today seems to just beg us to do other things on Sunday morning. Many of us spend a lot of time making a living, leaving little time for all the distractions the world provides. I am sure I am not the only one who puts in more than eight hours every day during the week, plus at least a half a day every Saturday. That barely leaves time to keep the lawn mowed, let alone a few fun activities. Forty years ago, when I was a lad, this was not such a trap. Since Sunday was largely considered a day of rest, very few commercial enterprises were open to lure one away those Sunday morning services. No one I knew had parents with any kind of cabin or lake property to cause them to be out of town on the weekends. Face it, there was not much else to do on a Sunday morning back then except go to church. Not so today. If you are not so worn out by working too many hours during the week that you want to sleep in, then you surely will be tempted by all of life's other pleasures that there never seem to be time for. Certainly life's circumstances can get you out of the habit of going to church regularly if you let them.

If it were not possible for a real Christian "ween" themselves from attending services, then we would not have needed the warning of Hebrews 10 quoted above.

The second possibility is that you really are not a Christian in the first place. Perhaps you do not even claim to be one. My guess is that if such is the case the only real desire you may have to attend services would be the working of God in calling you to him. Follow that calling. Your salvation is in the gospel, and the gospel has been entrusted to the local church.

What if you claim to be a Christian, but have never felt much desire to go to church, but only a sense of duty? Maybe even more like a chore. That should be enough to cause you some worry. The bible makes it clear that there is such a thing as making a false profession of faith. 2 Corinthians 13:5 says "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? " It is not an unhealthy thing for a Christian to consider their spiritual condition from time to time. Better to find your lack now than to one of those Jesus spoke of in Matthew 7:22-23 when he said "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."

In fact one of the clear "proofs" that the bible gives us that we are indeed saved is that we love the bretheren. As it says in 1 John 3:14 "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death."

So, if you are saved, then you love your brothers and sisters in the Lord. Why would you not be a member of a local church? That is where you will find those brothers and sisters. And if you are a member, why would you not be a regular attendee? My wife and I have children and grandchildren who live out of state. We don't get to see them very often. My wife is going to visit them in about a week, and I wish I could be there with them. It gives me a real ache down deep when I think about spending time with them. But on a slightly smaller scale I get the same feeling when I am going to miss a church service. I think that is the way it is supposed to be.

Now the church that I belong to is a small one, and in the last year has suffered from even lower than usual attendance. No fault of the pastor. He certainly delivers a good challenging sermon ever week. Most of the members tend to be "older" with children that have started their own families. And as is so often the case, those grown children no longer live in the area. This has lead to very small number of children in the church, which means no children's programs. It is tough to attract new, young families without a program for their children. Sort of a catch 22. The bottom line is that there is a very real concern that the church will not be able to continue. Ouch!

My point is this; If you are a Christian and you are not a member of a local church, then why not? It is your biblical duty! If you are a member of a local church and you do not attend or support financially on a regular basis, then why not? It is your biblical duty! Do not take your local church for granted! Not only do you need your local church, your local church needs you! Be involved. Why? Because the Lord that died for your sins wants it that way!

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