Monday, September 26, 2011

"What's Missing From Ch - - ch? ... U R!"

One thing I do not think I have ever addressed in this blog is the question as to whether or nor you can be a Christian and not go to church.  The easy answer is yes as to require church for salvation would be adding works to a free gift.  Furthermore, it would give a false sense of security to those who go to church but never made a commitment to Jesus Christ.  So while going to church is not a requirement for salvation, what does the Bible say about church attendance. 
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as [is] the manner of some, but exhorting [one another], and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.  Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV
It is clear in Scripture that we should be part of a church.  We are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, in other words, we are not to stop meeting as a church.  Christians were never meant to be solitary individuals, we were meant to be a part of the community of God.  I know that some churches have grown much too large to feel anything like the family it is supposed to feel like (and many have effective measures to counter that effect) and many others are ripe with gossip, false teaching, cliques, social status issues, and many other problems that make attendance unbearable.  There are, however, many churches that have solid doctrine, solid teaching, and solid fellowship.  I personally believe that solid doctrine and teaching will lead to solid fellowship, but I suppose there are those few churches where the teaching and doctrine may be great but the listening and obedience of the flock is not.  The point is that there are plenty of good churches to attend that there really is no excuse not to attend.  If you are a Christian, God will lead you to the church He has for you. 

Hebrews alludes to the reasons why attendance is so important in this brief passage.  We read that we are to consider one another to stir up love and good works.  In other words, we are to meet for fellowship and discipleship.  We meet for encouragement, support, exhortation, training, and study.  Hebrews even tells us that as the Day (of the Lord's return) approaches, it is all the more important.  Each day is a day closer to His return, so going to church is important now and continues to grow more and more important each day.  There are several reasons for that as well and we will cover them as we go through today's lesson. 
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34-35 NKJV
First of all, we meet to grow in our love for one another.  It is this love for each other that is a sign to the world that we are of the Lord.  It is hard to say that you love the body of Christ if you never meet with them.  It is hard to grow to love those of the body of Christ if you refuse to spend time with them.  It is a simple idea of spending time together as a family, growing in love for one another.  It is a simple idea that so many have gotten so wrong.  I know of many people, including myself, who were hurt badly as part of a church.  What can not happen, though, is for us for allow the bad actions of a few people sour us to the entire body of Christ.  The church should be a place where love is practiced and where love grows.  Even in discipline, there is love as the whole idea of ejecting someone from a church is so that they may repent and be restored.  The family of God must be a loving family, and we all have to be a part of that family.  Otherwise, we harm our witness and we become very lonely Christians.  A lonely Christian is a sitting duck for the attacks of Satan. 
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.  Galatians 6:2 NKJV
This love we have needs to be more than in just words or good fellowship, but we should also be doing for each other.  Our love must be active and we can not be active if we are not part of a loving church family.  If someone has a need, the rest of the church has the responsibility to fill it.  If you have a need, you need to allow the church to help supply what you lack.  That does take some bit of pride swallowing, but we are supposed to be humble anyway.  If you are not part of a church you are not only not taking part in covering the needs of another, but you are cheating the church of their opportunity to minister to you.  As a Christian, we bear the responsibility to allow ourselves to be used of God to cover the needs of others in the church.  We can not really do that if we are not part of a church. 
Preach the word! Be ready in season [and] out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.  2 Timothy 4:2 NKJV
Our pastors, leaders, and teachers are all exhorted to teach and exhort us.  If we are not in church, we are not receiving this teaching.  I know many make the argument that they watch their church on television or the internet and so they are getting that teaching.  Some even read sermons or messages online and claim to be receiving their teaching that way.  Those are ways that can definitely supplement our teaching and some television, internet, and written lessons can do wonderful things for our walk.  I am not putting them down in any way, but you are missing the connection that only being there in the presence of the teacher can give you.  Being in a church usually gets you in the church mindset.  Being at home does not do that.  You are probably dressed in your pajamas or some other stay-home clothes, eating snacks, checking email, and taking bathroom breaks as watch your favorite television or internet preachers.  There are way too many distractions of it to is as good as being in church hearing the message.  Furthermore, sometimes the fellowship after the message as you speak of God's word or how that message can be applied to each others lives that really drives that message home.  We really need to be a part of a church community and hear what God has to say to you individually and as part of that community.  The New Testament epistles and even the epistles recorded in Revelation are all addressed to a specific body of believers.  We need to be a part of a community to hear what God has to say to that community.
And He Himself gave some [to be] apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ-- from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.  Ephesians 4:11-16 NKJV
Being a part of a church community or family also helps you find your place within that community.  We all have different callings to fulfill and they are all important as they make up not just the global body of Christ but also the local body of Christ.  We all have a place in that body and we can not find that purpose if we are not part of that body.  Is there a part of your body that is still part of your body that is disconnected from your body? The whole idea of something separate from your body being a part of it is silly just as saying that you are part of the body of Christ but not actually being connected to that body.  We go to church to hear those lessons we talked about earlier, which help us to find our calling and hone the gifts God has given us to accomplish that ministry.  We all need to part of a body, joined together, each fulfilling our God-given purpose.  We can not do that not being a part of a church.
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for [that Day will not come] unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.  2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 NKJV
And this is why it is even more important to meet together as we await the Lord's return.  There is going to be a great falling away from the church. As the persecution begins to rise, many nominal believers will fall away unable or unwilling to withstand the persecution.  There will come a time when the only ones we can turn are those in the church.  There are already parts of the world where this is a reality and it is only a matter of time before it becomes a reality here as well.  Furthermore, as his return draws ever closer the urgency to get out the Gospel is ever greater.  We must have that urgency to share with as many we can the hope that we have in Jesus.  We do not know when He will return, we only know that each day could be the day.  We must live with that mindset.  We must live knowing that every person we do not reach for Christ today may be left behind tomorrow. 

We must not give up being part of a church community.  While you can be a Christian while not being a part of one, you will not grow as a Christian and you will never realize your calling.  In other words, you can be a Christian but you will never grow as one.  You are not only cheating the body of Christ out of you fellowship and contribution, but you are cheating yourself out a family, support, and joy in serving our Lord.   I know there are bad churches as I often write about them.  There are still many great churches, though, and what you need to do is to pray and seek out where the Lord wants you to be. You were never meant to live life alone in the Lord.  You are a sitting duck for the attacks of Satan and you are cheating yourself out of the love and support of your eternal family.  There is some body out there that is missing a part, and that part is you.  Find your place in the body of Christ. 
For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also [is] Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12 NKJV

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