Recently I had a conversation with a man about the Scriptures and the things of God. He told me how he loves the Bible, how he loves to hear good preaching, as well as the burden he has for the direction many churches have headed with their gospel-light message. As the conversation continued I asked him of what local church he was a part, only to be surprised to find out that he really has no church that he calls home or a local body that he serves.
In the internet age that we live and the access we now have to hear our favorite preacher online as well as the many Christian TV and radio programs as avenues for Christians to hear the preaching of the Word, I wonder how many people are in the same boat as the man I talked with. They have a high view of Scripture yet find other places besides the church to get their diet of God’s Word.
While I obviously do not have anything against preaching that you can view online or watch on TV as a supplement, I do have a problem with those who are not investing themselves in the local church. I do not think one can truly love God’s Word if they do not love his Church.
Over and over in the New Testament we read about the importance of the local church. It is the church who is both the body of Christ as well as the bride for whom he is returning. While I do realize at times the New Testament talks about the church in a universal sense, meaning all true believers, more often than not it is talking about the local group of believers. One of the greatest joys and blessings a Christian has is serving and investing in the local church. To love God and his Word is to love his church. You can’t truly love God without loving and serving the church.
That being said, I think too often we want to blame individuals for not serving the church without recognizing that many times it is the churches who do not put people in position to utilize their gifts. I believe that is one of the big reasons why so many people are either not serving in their church or turning to the internet or TV to be their sources of spiritual guidance.
In too many churches the only areas where Christians can serve are either in a teaching position (which James 3 tells us not many are called to), the nursery, or as an usher. It is important not only for the church to recognize different gifts people have but also empower them to use their gift–even if that requires the individual to use their gifts outside the four walls of the church building. Churches need to empower the evangelists in the church to spread the gospel through a park ministry, empower the prayer warrior to fulfill their calling, empower the mercy shower as they head to the children’s hospital and so on. Not only should churches empower people, they also need to see individuals who use these gifts as a part of them–a part of their local body. When the evangelist is in the park sharing the gospel he needs to be seen as serving the local church in their evangelist function.
There is no greater joy a Christian can have than using the gifts God has given them and no greater responsibility a church has in the discipleship process than in finding and empowering individuals to fulfill their gifting.
Praise be to God for the church and the gift of serving him through it!