Abram & Sarai

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on June 8, 2007 under Ask the Pastor | Be the First to Comment

A visitor to our website writes:

I was recently talking to some friends about church involvement. One friend said that they consider their church an extension of their family, and they try to be as involved as possible in the church activities and family. The other friend said her family thinks of their church the same way they think of school and work: as a part of their lives, but not an extension of it. They go every Sunday, give their tithe, and participate in special events, but not much more.

My question is: How important is the church family to our spiritual lives? Should we treat our church family as an extension of our family, nurturing and holding ourselves accountable to them; or do treat it the same as school and work – a desirable necessity, but not crucial?

* * * * * * * * * *

Thanks for asking. This is a great question.

Let me start of by saying that I believe very strongly that one’s church family is very, very important. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that it’s more important than one’s professional life. I heard once about a pastor who met a new couple who had just moved into the community and had begun attending his church. They had moved from another part of the country, and the pastor asked them if if was a job transfer that had brought them into the community. “No,” they said; “It was this church. We heard that God was doing some great things through this church family, and we felt strongly led by God to sell our home, and move here so that we can be involved with what God was doing.” And then they said, “By the way; do you know where we could find jobs?” Few people demonstrate that kind of devotion to a specific local church; but I think it reflects the correct priorities.

One of your friends said that church ought to be looked on as an extension of their family. I agree with the spirit of that statement; but I would say that it needs to be kept in balance. To be honest, some people have used heavy involvement with their church family as a way of escaping from their family responsibilities at home – and that’s always wrong. There was a church I knew of in the Seattle area that had become cult-like; and its aggressive leader was demanding all of people’s time and energy. As a result, many folks were losing their jobs; some were getting complaints from their neighbors because their homes and lawns were turning into wrecks; and some even lost marriages. Aside from being a heretical church, it was also left a very bad impression on the unbelieving community. God gives us many responsibilities and obligations to manage; and He doesn’t call us to give ourselves so completely over to one legitimate God-given area of our lives to the extent that we destroy other legitimate God-given areas of our lives.

But as you read the scripture, you can’t get around the fact that God calls us to become deeply involved and active in our church family. It’s not to be treated like a mere extra-curricular activity (such a golf on the weekends, or membership in the local Rotary Club.) Church (not the building, but the assembly of all redeemed people) is unlike anything else we can be involved in. It is a living, spiritual entity – one in which Jesus Christ dwells. We don’t simply “join” it; we are “baptized” into it by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13). The model that the New Testament gives us is that of the church being a Body and we as the individual members of it – all with Christ as the Head. In Ephesians 4:11-16, Paul writes: “And He [that is, Jesus] 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.”

Look at that passage carefully. You can see that, for the church to function as God intends, the active involvement of each redeemed man and woman is essential. It speaks of each member of the body being connected by “what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share”. God designed the Body (the church) to function just like our physical bodies do: it grows only when every member of the body performs its God-designed task to the benefit of all the other members. God gave divinely-appointed leaders (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors/teachers) – not to do the work as ‘trained professionals’, but “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” When it is functioning as it should, the Body-life of the church makes all of its individual members grow to be more like Jesus Himself – thus making them better fathers or mothers, better husbands or wives, better employers or employees, better citizens or leaders or community servants.

Today, many people treat church in the second way you described. It isn’t really very important to them. They attend only if it doesn’t get in the way of other things that are “more important” to them. Folks go from one church to another very easily nowadays; and they’ll leave an otherwise good church simply because they don’t like the drums, or because the preacher said something from the Bible that rubbed them the wrong way. An ungodly “consumer-mentality” has ruled how people commit themselves to their church – “What’s in it for me?” But that’s not the pattern God gives us in the New Testament. For the early Christians, church was a matter of unquestioned importance. It wasn’t an option. They drew together faithfully, and often at great personal cost and danger. It wasn’t “convenient” to do so, especially during times of persecution; but they were deeply involved in personal and active ways. A good picture of what “church involvement” was originally like is given to us in Acts 2:42-47: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”

My personal experience is that the members of my church family are my best and dearest friends. I love them and would rather be with them than anyone else I know (with the exception of my wife and children). I have been in other churches, and have sometimes preached in them; and I always feel welcomed when I do. But I would much rather be “home” with my own church family. I willingly hold myself accountable to my brothers and sisters in it, and I covet their deep involvement in all areas of my life. If I didn’t have my church family, I would quickly become very weak and ineffective spiritually; and I certainly wouldn’t gain the benefit of all the giftedness and works of service that the various members of the Body render unto me – as well as the things I am gifted to do in service to them. It’s not a perfect church – the only perfect one is in heaven right now. But it is absolutely essential to the health of my soul – imperfect as it may be toward me and I toward it. The command of God in the scriptures is that we not forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25). Deep involvement in a good, Bible-teaching, Christ-worshiping, loving, serving church family is a command from God – not to be disobeyed without serious consequences to our spiritual health.

Here’s a good guiding question to ask: Who is the Lord of my life? My suggestion is that, if Jesus Christ is on the throne of someone’s life, they will look upon church involvement with the same importance that He places on it. They will be submitted to its leaders as an expression of being submitted to Him. They will become as involved in the life of the church as He desires them to be; and they will find that doing so will be increasingly a blessing to them. But if Jesus Christ is NOT on the throne of someone’s life – if they’ve merely “asked Jesus to become a part of their lives”, but haven’t actually given their lives to Him; if they have tipped the hat, so to speak, to Jesus, but are still calling the shots for themselves – then they’ll give church as much importance as THEY desire it to have. They’ll be as committed to church as it is convenient for church to be to them.

God has called the church into being through the cross of Christ; and He has given it to us as a great gift for our spiritual protection and enrichment. If Jesus is truly the Lord of our lives, then we will be as committed to and involved in our local church as He desires for us to be. So then, you can almost look at your church life as a pretty good indicator of who your life truly belongs to. The place to begin is to give ourselves completely over to Jesus Christ; and He will place us in the Body and make us as involved as He wants us to be.

This was a very good question. Thanks.

Pastor Greg

  • Share/Bookmark
Site based on the Ministry Theme by eGrace Creative.