“We had church today”
How important is it for a Christian to be a faithful member of a local assembly and what does that mean? In today’s culture, we’ve put most things on the go, so to speak. We are accustomed to being involved in more things, which means we have less participation in them. I would take a guess that for many of you (especially under the age of 50) your life involves multiple things that require your time multiple times a week, outside of your job or your home. Now this isn’t bad in and of itself, it is what this situation makes us face and causes us to do that is so dangerous. We are faced with a week that contains a finite amount of time in which we must: eat, sleep, work, spend with our spouse, raise children, maintain a home, be involved in your children’s school, serve in a club or group, recreate, be involved with your church (insert whatever I forgot right here). Now, remember that there is a limited amount of time each week to use for these (sleeping gets the most) and so what happens when we shoe horn in something else? We do one of three things: we continue in everything, just less effectively and with less joy; we omit one thing to do another; we consolidate.
It is this third one I’d like to address here. What happens when we try to consolidate several activities together and count them as equal? For instance, what happens when we try to consolidate recreation with raising our kids/spending time with them. Is that one way of doing this? Sure. Is it the best way? Probably not. But why? Think about this for a moment; when you and your kids spend the bulk of your time at the ball field, how much true personal interaction are you having? They are playing, you are watching and cheering. One is acting, the other is spectating. It works on a certain level but is not the most effective because it does neither well.
What happens when we try to consolidate our faithfulness to church with other things?
We first of all twist Scripture.
“You know, the Bible says where two or three are gathered, I am among them”.
Doesn’t this mean that if I’m with other believers somewhere, that is church? The short answer is no. First of all, because what Jesus was talking about in that verse was church disciple, not what a church is (Matthew 18). That verse is not remotely connected to the way most people use it. Second, because the church isn’t when people just get in the same vicinity. I’ve heard people (well-meaning people at that) say that when they are gone with ball all summer and fall, they are still faithfully part of the church because at each game they pray and maybe someone reads some Scripture. First, I commend that as a spiritual discipline, but that isn’t a church either. Here is why:
A church is made up of born again believers. Those who are genuinely saved and professing whose actions and belief meld together.
A church is made up of a visible/known membership. In Scripture it was known who was a part of each church (how can you discipline a church member if you don’t know who is a church member?). This implies some type of church membership.
The Church had specific features: The preaching of God’s word, the Gospel proclamation, The Ordinances (Baptism/Lord’s Supper) regularly, discipleship, discipline, pastoral leadership, giving/singing, and so much more. Anything that does not feature the aforementioned pieces simply does not fit a biblical definition of a church
A church has ministries and servants. Let me ask, are those on the ball team being discipled in how to serve and spread the Gospel? I know we can come up with some philosophical attempts to try to connect the dots, but I’m talking about overt, intentional, unmistakable positions of service? I’m guessing no. They are taught teamwork, sportsmanship and ethics (I hope, but not always). Are those good things? They are, but atheists teach the exact same things, so that doesn’t qualify.
Secondly we misrepresent the Kingdom.
Being a faithful part of the church you are a member isn’t just optional, God designed it that way. Sadly it has become commonplace. It is what this consolidation does that is so dangerous. It teaches our kids and other lost people that Christ is great, but not as great as our recreation. It teaches that there is an eternity to come, but it is only the present time that matters. It teaches that caring for one another is important, but my enjoyment trumps it all. It misrepresents the truth.
Beloved, don’t consolidate; it won’t take you where you need to go.