Me! Join the Church? Why?
By Joe Keim
July 1, 2015
For more than 2,000 years, the Lord Jesus has used the local church as a vehicle to call tens of thousands of missionaries to the mission field.
The Lord Jesus has used the local church as a way for His people to come together in one place and worship His holy name.
The local church is where spiritually gifted teachers, preachers, evangelists, elders, and deacons serve the Lord Jesus and His people.
The local church is the place where hurting hearts are encouraged, challenged, convicted, and driven to make a difference in our generation.
In case you have forgotten or no one ever told you, let me say: the Lord Jesus Christ is madly in love with the local church; and when Jesus is in love with something, I am in love with it, too.
When I hear God’s own family members poke fun at the church, run her down, call her names, find reasons to not attend, and yes, even mock her—it breaks my heart. The truth is, those who find continued fault with the local church and refuse to attend are clearly casting their vote to close the doors of the local church.
Consider the words of God in 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.
Like you, I am very much aware that local churches vary. Some are dead; others are alive and thriving. Some are mostly inward focused, while others are both inward and outward focused. Some are filled with love and generosity, while others are struggling with bitterness and getting along. The truth is, not one local church has it all together. If you ever find one that does, please don’t join it or you’ll ruin it, just like I would.
My Personal Experience
I would like to share a few things about my own church life and experience. I received most of my training for ministry at a local church. I did not spend four years sitting in a college classroom; rather, I sat under 15 years of great Bible teaching.
Note: I am not going to talk down on Bible colleges, nor do I want to lose sight of our study; however, I feel the need to point out some thoughts I have on many of today's Bible colleges:
- I believe with all my heart that it is not only scriptural but the responsibility of the local church to teach, equip and train men and women for ministry, not Bible colleges.
- Bible colleges have pushed their educational agenda so hard and, for so long, that American churches have learned to trust in education, rather than the Holy Spirit.
- No amount of classroom education and degrees can replace the power of the Holy Spirit.
During my first 15 years of church life, the Lord showed me where I was gifted, and soon I began to realize something. Every time I found myself teaching, preaching, mentoring, and discipling someone, I felt good about myself. The more I understood my God-given gifts, the more I found myself wanting to be involved in my church and the community.
Rarely, did I look for or expect the church to serve me; rather, I looked for ways that I could serve the church and our community. Listen! I believe that Jesus set the example by coming to our world and serving us. His duty and calling was to sacrifice and give His life for us. Can we do any less?
Before we get further into our study, I have a few questions for you to consider:
- Do you know what your God-given gifts are? If so, are you operating in those gifts? Does the church you belong to allow you to operate in your God-given gifts?
- Are you serving in your local church and community? If so, are you doing so because you have to, or because you want to?
- When you compare the church you attend with what the scriptures teach about the local church, is it on track? Is it mostly inward focused, or does it also reach out to our lost and dying world?
- Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).
- Go ye therefore, and teach all nations (Matthew 28:19).
- ...ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8).
A local church that focuses only on itself is outside of God’s will. It is also a dead church.
Next, I would like to look at some differences between the universal (worldwide) church and the local church. First, let me explain what I mean by universal church and then we’ll conclude our study by looking at the local church.
The Universal Church
A. The Universal Church Was Founded by Jesus Christ
Matthew 16:18 says: And I [Jesus] say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Let’s go ahead and break this scripture down into the following three parts
1. Jesus said "My church." The church belongs to Christ, not man.
The universal church does not belong to a certain denomination, such as Baptist, Amish, Methodist, or Mennonite. Nor does it belong to a certain culture or minister. The universal church belongs to Jesus Christ.
2. Jesus said "I will build." Christ builds the church.
Regardless of anyone’s opinion, the universal church is growing and thriving in our world today. No one but Jesus Christ can take credit for it. You and I can’t! The preachers can’t!
Consider Acts 2:47. It says that the early church was “Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
- Who did the adding? Jesus did!
- Who does the adding today? Jesus does!
3. Jesus said "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Christ Himself protects the church.
Ever since the church began, Satan and his people have tried their best to get rid of her. But notice: Jesus promised that nothing, including the gates of hell, will overcome and conquer His church. No one is capable of bringing her down!
If you belong to the universal church of God, you are part of Christ’s valued possession. Consider the price that Jesus paid for His church. To the elders of the church, God says: Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28).
How valuable is the universal church to Jesus Christ? Oh, she is precious to Him! He is madly in love with her and considers us His beautiful bride! One day the bride (the church) will go to meet the Groom (Jesus). When that happens, we will see and experience the wedding of all weddings. (Read Ephesians 5:25-27 and Revelation 19:6-9.) At times, I can hardly wait for these things to take place, and they will!
B. The Universal Church Was Activated by the Holy Spirit
Before Jesus went back to heaven, He gave his disciples some last minute instructions. He told them to go to the upper room in Jerusalem and wait on the Holy Spirit. They followed His advice, and in Acts chapter 2 we read about a powerful event. The Holy Spirit came upon the 120 men and women who were gathered there waiting, and the church was born. In Acts 11:15-16, Peter recalls those early days of ministry. He says: And as I [Peter] began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them [Gentiles], as on us [Jews] at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost (Acts 11:15-16).
Just as Acts chapter 2 describes the beginning of the church, so 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 describes its completion. The Apostle Paul writes: For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we [universal church] ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
The universal church is invisible and scattered throughout the whole world. On the other hand, the local church is visible and located in your neighborhood and in mine.
The Local Church
Consider for instance the following assemblies which were established as local churches:
- unto the church of God which is at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:2).
- to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi (Philippians 1:1).
- To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colossae (Colossians 1:2).
- Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem (Acts 11:22).
As we continue this study, notice how the Lord directed the apostle Paul in organizing and bringing structure to the local churches. Paul writes:
- For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee (Titus 1:5).
- …to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons (Philippians 1:1).
- And from Miletus he [Paul] sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church (Acts 20:17).
Today, many people are separating themselves from the structured and organized church movement that began with the early church and was, as I shared earlier, founded by Christ Himself. Those who do so create their own little island and set of beliefs. They are often bitter and rebellious, spending much of their time and energy mocking the structured local church. Those who do so are outside the will of God, and they will bear the consequences.
Those who belong to the local church:
A. have been saved:
And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved (Acts 2:46-47).
B. have been baptized:
Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls (Acts 2:41).
Four times in 1 Corinthians chapter 11, we read:
- when you come together in the church
- when you come together therefore in one place…
Why did they come together?
For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come (1 Corinthians 11:26).
In my 30 years of belonging to a local church, I've seen what 200 people can do when they pull their finances and prayer support together. Each year, the church family that I belong to raises upwards of $125,000 for missions and helps 40-plus missionaries in various parts of the world. It feels great, and it feels so right to be part of a body working together for the same cause and purpose.
At times, members of our church family have gone through spats, but then we refocus, forgive, and move on. Other times, members have fallen into deep dark sins, and we’ve had to stop what we were doing and make things right. God always blesses, and many times, lives have been restored.
Just like any family, we have stood together in tears and in joy. There were times I wanted to run away, but then the Lord reminded me that families are families. If we stick together, we are so much stronger and mightier than when standing alone.
It pains my heart to see hurting individuals and families who live on their own little island and point fingers at the local church. To them we may appear as a system; however, I see us as an army of believers working shoulder to shoulder for the sake of Jesus Christ and spreading the gospel to our generation.
If we are going to win this world over:
- We must stand in unison, just like any army, and march together.
- We must lay our petty differences aside and join forces with God.
- We must show the unbelieving world that we care about each other and about them.
If you do not belong to a local church, may I challenge you to get over your bitterness, laziness and complaining spirit. Stop believing the lies of the devil and get back into the will of God!
Seven Bible Reasons for Faithful Church Attendance
1. Because it is God’s plain command
Hebrews 10:25: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is…
The word “forsake” does not mean we have to be at church every time the doors are open. Some churches have misused this verse to manipulate and control people through condemnation, so that people become so active at church that it ruins their family lives. That is not what this means. But it should encourage all of us that we need the fellowship of like-minded believers. It is not possible for a Christian to make it on their own.
Luke 6:46: And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say.
John 14:15: If ye love me, keep my commandments.
2. Because it pleases your pastor
Hebrews 13:17: Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
Two reasons are given for obeying him.
- God called leaders to watch over our souls.
- God-called leaders can be grieved and hurt. If we follow them, they are filled with joy because the work of Christ goes forth.
3. Because of the Lord’s special presence
Ephesians 2:21-22: In whom all the building (local assembly of believers) fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
This image depicts believers as a carefully joined, constantly growing temple inhabited by God. Whereas a church building is sometimes called the house of God, in reality believers are the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:9 and 6:19. “For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Corinthians 6:16).
4. Because Jesus is coming again
Hebrews 10:25: … so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
1 John 2:28: And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.
As we get closer to the end time, the need for fellowship with other believers increases. The worse the times, the more we need each other.
There are other instructions on relating to other believers in the book of Hebrews (Hebrews 3:13; 13:7-9, and 17).
5. Because the Bible teaches you to tithe and give offerings
Malachi 3:10: Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse…
1 Corinthians 16:2: Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store…
When is the offering to be received? "Upon the first day of the week," which is Sunday. According to the Jewish calendar, the first day of the week was Sunday. The Jews, of course, worshipped on the Sabbath, but the early Christian believers began to worship on the first day of the week. Their primary reason for switching the day of worship was to commemorate the resurrection of the Lord.
Note: the believers were not to make only occasional offerings, they were to give regularly, every Lord's day: "Upon the first day of the week."
6. Because the church needs you
1 Corinthians 12:26: And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it…
The church is one body; therefore, it is to suffer and rejoice together. The body is to walk through the experience of life together—suffering and rejoicing with every member, looking after and caring for every member.
7. Because your church is the safest place to be
Ephesians 4:13-14: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
By: Joe Keim
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