Last time I examined some reasons people give for going to church. Today I want to talk about why I go. It isn’t the singing, although that’s important. And it isn’t the sermon, although I enjoy listening and learning. It isn’t even because of the many times I’m intensely aware of God’s presence during the service, although that’s a side-effect of being together. (God meets me in other circumstances as well.)
The main reason I go to church is because that’s where the body is. Following God is something we just can’t do alone.
We’re all body parts
1 Corinthians 12 through 14 talks about the body of Christ—how each of us is a member, gifted in a unique and complementary way for the purpose of building up one another in the faith. All that talk about feeling significant, all the books written about having a purpose, it all boils down to being a part of the body. As Paul puts it, “… those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.”
When a church actually acts in this way, everyone benefits. Believers are strengthened, God’s purposes are accomplished. No one feels unneeded, left out, or unimportant.
Whether or not a church provides opportunity for everyone to function in their area of giftedness is largely up to the leadership. It takes intentionality.
The traditional structure of a head pastor (with perhaps an associate pastor, children’s pastor, and/or youth leader) doing all the teaching, administration, visitation, counseling, etc., while the laity sit passively in their pews is not what God ever intended. Not only are the professionals doing all the work, they’re preventing everyone else from the blessing of being part of God’s plan. No wonder so many pastors crash and burn while their lukewarm congregation looks for meaning elsewhere.
Many churches are catching on to the idea that everyone needs to be involved in the work of the ministry throughout the week. Just showing up on Sunday morning isn’t enough. But it’s a start.
We need one another
Coming together as the body of Christ serves another purpose. God tells us to hang out together because we all need one another in order to obey Him. He exhorts us to:
- Honor one another above (Romans 12:10)
- Live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16)
- Accept one another (Romans 15:7)
- Instruct one another (Romans 15:14)
- Serve one another (Galatians 5:13)
- Be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32)
- Forgive one other (Ephesians 4:32)
- Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit (Ephesians 5:19)
- Submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21)
- Bear with one another (Colossians 3:13)
- Teach and admonish one another (Colossians 3:16)
- Encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
- Build one another up (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
- Spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24)
- Offer hospitality to one another (1 Peter 4:9)
This list applies to other believers, our brothers and sisters in Christ. How can we accomplish any of these things without being part of the local church?
The greatest is love
Most importantly, we need to be around other believers so that we can love one another. Love can’t be expressed in a vacuum. It isn’t an abstract concept. It’s something we do to someone else. Nineteen times in the New Testament we are told to love one another. I think He really means it!
We’ve found that getting involved in a large church (ours numbers over 10,000) is very difficult. Thankfully, that’s why there are small groups. In a setting where you know and relate to everyone else, there are plenty of opportunities to put your gifts to use. In a very real sense, I consider our Friday evening group to be my church. After years of searching, it feels like I’ve finally come home.
What part are you in the body of Christ? What are your gifts, talents, and skills? Do you have an opportunity to use them at church, or someplace else?