Updated: Feb 18
I moved to Castle Rock from Oklahoma City. It’s easy to overstate the differences between these two places. But there are real differences. In Oklahoma, the buckle of the Bible Belt, there are plenty of people who do not attend church services on Sunday morning. But many of them have a vague sense that they probably should be participating in worship. Some of them may also be members of a local church.
Not so in Colorado. People have a nagging sense that they should be on the ski slopes, on the hiking trail, or at the river, and not at church. Most aren’t members of any church. I suspect that attitudes I meet here in Colorado about church are similar to almost anywhere in U.S. In this last post, I’d like to explore a few healthy assumptions that every Christian should have about church.
Healthy Assumption 1: Since I am a member of Christ, I need to be connected to a particular church.
The body of Christ isn’t esoteric. Just as Jesus is God who also became an embodied human being, so also the church must take concrete shape in the real world. The apostles wrote to churches made up of professing believers joined together in Christ. They were living in real relationship with one another in the context of worship, discipleship, and outreach. The New Testament also speaks of the church as having a structure of leadership. That structure is vital for the body’s overall health.
Healthy Assumption 2: I need the work God promises to do when the body gathers for corporate worship
God the Holy Spirit indwells individual believers (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). But He also indwells God’s people corporately (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). The fact that Scripture makes such a distinction indicates the corporate aspect is important. God works in His people as we gather corporately, especially in worship. Acts 2:42 describes how the fledgling church in Jerusalem, “…devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers.” The Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
In 1 Corinthians 10 the apostle Paul indicates that to eat the bread and drink the cup in communion is to participate in the body and blood of Jesus. We cannot do such things apart from participation in a local church and its worship. His exhortation is that no one should despise the gifts of any other member. Each member contributes to the health of the whole. All are necessary. It follows that no member can say to himself or herself, “I’m unnecessary.” If you’re a believer who is staying away from church you are impacting others, not just yourself. Stephen Altrogge explains the importance of church involvement in his helpful post, “Who Needs the Church Anyway?”
Healthy Assumption 3: The local church is healthier if I am an active participant
1 Corinthians 12 indicates that there are many members, but one body. Paul is addressing the church in Corinth. We may apply what he says to the larger church. But its most immediate application is to the local church. He writes that every member contributes to the proper functioning of the body. No member is to despised because every member is important. The local church needs you. When you stay away, you hurt others and not just yourself.
Healthy Assumption 4: My health depends upon being an active participant in a local church
Spiritual health also depends upon the gifts of other believers being exercised for my benefit. We need to understand that this dynamic isn’t merely social. The church is unlike any social organization to which anyone might belong. The Holy Spirit is at work through your fellow believers, and your spiritual health requires your involvement with them.
Healthy Assumption 5: I need to develop healthy habits of church involvement
Church involvement is a lot like any other new addition to your life. When you adopt any new practice, it usually requires establishing healthy habits. Here are a few quick, practical ideas to develop healthy habits.
1. Put it on your calendar like you do for anything else important in your life. Writing it down will actually help.
2. Cultivate a conviction that Sunday is really the best day of the seven. Chief among many reasons it’s the best is that you get to enter into God’s very presence with His people to worship Him.
3. Prepare for Sunday morning on Saturday night. Pray that God would work in you and your fellow believers. Get a decent night’s sleep.
4. Engage with people before worship. Take the time to begin to know your brothers and sisters.
5. While you’re in worship sing, confess, listen, and recite your faith with the body. Actively take part in worship.
6. After the service meet people. Share a meal with someone, even if you have to initiate.
7. Finally, realize that relationships in the church are just like all your other relationships. They will require bearing with others in their weaknesses and overlooking offenses. They will require forgiving, working through difficult and painful hurts, and seeking forgiveness for your offense.
If the biblical vision of the church is true, then we must assume that church involvement is well worth it!