Why can’t I just worship God in the comfort of my own home, enjoying the best preaching and music as I connect to the internet? Why can’t I meet God at a park, in the mountains, or anywhere else?
Do I really need church?
The Bible instructs us to "consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together..." (Hebrews 10:24-25)
I need church because it’s a family reunion. Jesus said, “Who is my family? Those who do my will” (see Mark 3:33,35). We are a family--rejoicing with one another in the good times, and encouraging one another in the hard times. Church is not the building, it is the people inside—we need each other’s encouragement and support. Maybe if we have money, health, and a busy schedule, we don’t feel the need to fellowship with other Christians. But when the storms of life hit—and they will—suddenly we’ll find nobody is there. If we remain shallow in our relationship to our church, the support of other Christians won’t be there when we need it most.
I need church because it is a classroom. For the rest of my life I will be enrolled in a course on growing strong in Jesus Christ, each week building upon the one before. Someone has said of the Bible: “Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be right.” In Ephesians 4:11-13, the apostle Paul tells us that: “He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastor-teachers, for the equipping of the saints (that’s us!)…” Your own personal time of Bible reading and study is important. Along with that, God has put people within the church who are gifted teachers, to also help equip us. Make full use of the many opportunities to learn more about the Lord.
I need church because it is a refuge—a place to get away from the busyness of the world, like a mini-retreat. It is a place to let the troubles of the world go and focus my heart on things above, as I worship the Lord. “O taste and see that the Lord is good. How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Psalms 34:8)
I need church because it is a billboard. People see what is important to me, as they see me attend services week after week. My commitment makes a strong statement about me to my family, friends, and neighbors. In 2 Corinthians 3:2-3, the apostle Paul tells the people in the church at Corinth, “You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men… written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the Living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts.”
I need church because it is a victory celebration. Jesus left an empty tomb. I can celebrate His resurrection together with other believers, rejoicing in His triumph over death and Satan. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)
I need church because it is a time to spend with my Heavenly Father. King David wrote in the Psalms; “O Lord, I love the habitation of Your house, and the place where your glory dwells.” (Psalm 26:8) I am a child of God. As my Father, He is not cold and aloof. He delights in spending time with me. God wants to reveal His plan for my life. And I want to get in on the details, to cooperate with Him. “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3)
But He’s not only my Father, He’s our Father. And Christ is not just my Savior, He’s our Savior. Jesus said in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in the their midst.” When we gather together to spend time with the Lord, He assures us He is there with us.
So… now that we see the reasons WHY we need church, HOW do we plant our family’s roots deep into our local fellowship?
1. MAKE A COMMITMENT
First, make a commitment to a particular congregation. Take part in communion, be baptized as a born-again believer. Take the time to begin to get to know the people who make up the church: by attending a home fellowship, potlucks, prayer meetings, and so on.
In the Book of Acts, Luke tells us that the first century church was “continually devoting themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and of prayer”(Acts 2:42). Give yourself that time to get to know people, and let them get to know you.
2. CARE FOR ONE ANOTHER
Second, care for your brothers and sisters in Christ. Whatever we do for the least of God’s family, we actually do for Him (read Matthew 25:40). You don’t need to wait until someone asks you to help. Take the initiative to visit the sick or elderly. If you know someone is hurting financially, take them a bag of groceries. Help someone move, fix someone’s car, trade babysitting days. Pray regularly for the church and people you have met.
Look for ways to help and bless others with the gifts and means God has given you. “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10).
3. LOOK FOR A WAY TO MINISTER
Third, look for a way to minister within your church. 1 Corinthians 12:7 says, “to each one manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” The gifts and abilities which God has given ALL of us are not just for our good, but to be used to benefit the entire Body of Christ (the church). Get involved in the Children’s Ministry or in Setting up or the Prayer Chain or something else that God has gifted you for doing.
Beware of the mind-set that seeks only to have the church meet your needs. As Christians, the attitude that should characterize us is love—a love that gives to others. Our Lord said, “All men will know that you are My disciples if you love one another” (John 13:35). Be there to give, not get, and you will receive an abundant blessing from the Lord.
4. RESPOND TO THE LORD IN YOUR GIVING
Fourth, respond to the Lord in your giving. Giving back to the Lord of our time, talents, and resources is a natural response to the abundant blessing He has first given to us. In 2 Corinthians 8, the apostle Paul wrote about the generosity of the churches in Macedonia. More important than their financial gift—and actually the cause of their generosity—was that they “first gave themselves to the Lord…” (verse 5).
Respond to the Lord in your giving… do not feel any pressure to give, or to give any certain amount. “Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful [hilarious] giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all the sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Corinthians 9:7-8). Let the Lord tell you what He wants you to do. Give only what you can give cheerfully. God doesn’t want your money, He wants your heart.
5. ENCOURAGE MISSIONARIES
Finally, pray for and encourage your church’s missionaries. Not all of us will have an opportunity to go to a foreign mission field, but ALL of us CAN share in the outreach through prayer and communication. Each part is important, and each received a blessing from the Lord.
Consider King David’s words to Israel following a battle with the people of Amalek. Some 200 men were too exhausted to continue in the fighting, and so they stayed with the baggage, guarding it while they rested. When the army returned, some did not want to share the spoils of the victory with these 200 men. But David declared, “As his share is who goes down to the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage; they shall share alike” (1 Samuel 30:24). These men had fought, and were still willing to fight—but because of exhaustion they were simply unable. You might not be able to go to China or Russia or India to minister. But God sees your willing heart when you regularly take time to lift these outreaches up in prayer and to write to them. And you shall share in the blessing for that missionary work. And when they are here in town, you might even want to invite them to your home for dinner, to meet them personally and hear more about their ministry.
It may not always be easy to follow these five principles. Lives today are often complicated, and we have many things competing for our time. But Scripture is clear in teaching that if we keep our commitment to our local church, we will be the winners in the long run. As our roots run deep, we will be “like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” (Psalm 1:3)