I know a lot of people who say, “I like Jesus, but not the church.” That phrase has always struck me as strange. If you told me that you like me, but not my wife, I’m not sure we’d be great friends. I wonder how Jesus feels about people who like him, but not the church? After all, the local church is the bride of Christ – and he loves His bride in all of her brokenness and in all of her beauty. I’m convinced that being part of a local church is a great privilege and responsibility.
God desires for us to be connected to a local church family. It is one of the Lord’s greatest blessings to us in this life, but sometimes it can be difficult to connect. In the following paragraphs, I’d like to unpack four ways that you can be a faithful and fruitful member of a local church community.
First, commit to attending regularly. Attending worship on Sunday is a Saturday night decision and one that I hope you prioritize. Whether it’s in-person or online, my encouragement to you is to commit to being a part of a church and attending weekly. In addition to attending, spend some time before the service praying and asking God to speak to you during the gathering and then come ready to hear from the Lord. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Second, offer hospitality. Most people are waiting for someone else to make the first move. What if we became a church where everyone felt at home? Where people were invited to lunch or dinner with other church members on a regular basis? Another way you can do this is by arriving early and sharing life with people who are a part of the gathering. Find ways to open your life and your home to other church members. (1 Peter 4:9)
Third, find a way to serve in the local church. You are a unique creation of God, and because of that, God has a unique role for you to play. He has gifts that he has given you that the church needs. If God has called you to be a part of a church, they need you to play the part that only you can play. There is no such thing as a sideline Christian, we are all called to be in the game. (Romans 12:6-8)
Finally, extend grace regularly. There is no perfect church; in fact, if you find the perfect church, don’t join it because you’ll mess it up. Every church is imperfect because it is made up of imperfect people like you and me. This is why your church family, including your pastors and leaders, need your continual grace. It’s easy to find faults and lack, but growing believers trust the Lord and extend grace to their congregation, just as Jesus has shown us grace upon grace. (Ephesians 4:29)
This COVID season has reminded us of two central truths about being the church. First, the church is the people, not the building. As we’ve been meeting outside because of the restrictions and the remodel of our worship center, I’ve been reminded just how sweet it is to be together. It’s been low tech, but high praise – and God has done a great work. Second, I’m reminded that we need each other. The church is essential – that’s why we’ve been holding in-person worship gatherings since May and will continue to do so as we move into the future.
My hope is that your heart is stirred with affection for the church and that you put these four challenges into practice.
Pastor Ryan Paulson