I was 22 years old when I had a radical encounter with Jesus that moved me from knowing Him to following Him. As I began this relationship with Jesus I was working through all the things I had seen and learned growing up. I started noticing a trend that was perplexing to me – people being connected to the Church (universal) but not connected to the local church. Followers of Jesus who had different church services they would bounce around to attend on Sundays. Then they had different ministry meetings and/or parachurch gatherings they would attend during the week. Basically they had a relationship with Jesus and several relationships with other Believers. They worshiped Him regularly but they did not have a “church home”. So I began to study the Bible and seek the Holy Spirit as to why this was unsettling with me. 18 years later, I still see this problem present in so many people’s lives. Not just “young people” but people my age as well.
Here is my “case” for every follower of Jesus to have a local church they call “home”.
1. JESUS WAS CONNECTED TO A LOCAL CHURCH.
As a follower of Jesus, I must first look to the Bible and see if He set an example for me. Luke’s gospel records for us in Chapter 4, “(Jesus) went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read.” (verse 16) There are several things in this passage that reveal to us that the local church is important to Jesus. The first tells us that He went to the local synagogue on the Sabbath day “as was His custom”.
[easy-tweet tweet=”Even Jesus was connected to a local church. ” user=”@lakeviewuthguy” usehashtags=”no”]
A custom is not something I do sporadically but rather something I do consistently. Second was the fact that He stood to read the Scripture passage for that day. Random people aren’t involved in worship services. Churches don’t grab first time guests during the welcome time and invite them to read the passage for the sermon that day. The people who are part of the family and have shown investment are the ones who lead us to worship Jesus each week. Third, the people knew who He was. Jesus had not started His “public ministry” yet, so the only people who knew Him were the ones who were a part of His life. As a follower of Jesus, being connected to a local church was important for Him therefore it should be important for me as well.
2. WE ARE GIVEN SPIRITUAL GIFTS TO EDIFY THE CHURCH.
In 1 Corinthians Paul wrote to the local church in Corinth truths that still apply to us today. “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed.” (12:1) It is very important for us to know about Spiritual Gifts – what are they, who has them, who gives them, how do I use them, etc. Why? Why is it important for us to not be foolish about our spiritual gifts? “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (12:4-7)
We need to know about spiritual gifts so we can use them. Use them how? To edify the church! Think about it—we have these gifts to make the body of Christ in the local church stronger. Let’s ask the obvious question (just in case you haven’t seen it yet)… How do I use my spiritual gifts to make the church stronger if I don’t have a church home I am serving in? Answer = you can’t.
[easy-tweet tweet=”How do I use my spiritual gifts to make the church stronger if I don’t have a church home I am serving in?” user=”@lakeviewuthguy” hashtags=”#youcant”]
Just so we are clear, the spiritual gifts of singing loud, posting great pics, posting great quotes from a sermon, and letting people know I am at church on social media are not listed in the Bible as gifts given to edify the church. We are ALL given gifts by the same God as designated by the Holy Spirit so we can edify the church. That means we have to have a church body we are serving in to use them!
3. THE LOCAL CHURCH IS OUR CHURCH HOME NOT OUR VACATION HOME.
A “vacation” home is something that we invest in but only actually show up during certain times of the year. It is a great break from reality but it is not “home”. Too many people treat their local church as a vacation home. They enjoy the thought of having one, but they only put their physical bodies there at certain times of the year.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
[easy-tweet tweet=”Too many people treat their local church as a vacation home. ” user=”@lakeviewuthguy”]
The author of Hebrews reminds us the importance of being connected to a local church so that we can “stir” and “encourage” each other.” Each other” is a two way street – not just me showing up and receiving the blessing, but my investment to do this to others as well. I cannot do that if I don’t know them.
I realize the local church is not perfect. I realize that people will burn bridges, be hard-hearted, and disappoint us. That is why we need the local church more than ever! The Holy Spirit will not stir our hearts merely in the general public because following Jesus is not the culture in which we live. We need a local church that is our family to be used by the Holy Spirit to help conform us to the image of Christ. We need a local church that is our family so the we can use our gifts to help others be conformed to the image of Christ.
If you want a greater resource to encourage you about the importance of the local church, I highly recommend reading “Stop Dating the Church!: Fall in Love with the Family of God” by Joshua Harris. I look forward to seeing followers of Jesus developing families in the local church where they can use their God-given gifts to make that local church stronger for eternal impact!