Dear Fellow Redeemed:
There is something that frequently weighs heavily on pastors and elders as they strive to care for the spiritual well-being of the people God has entrusted to us and who call our congregation their church home. It stems from the seeming avoidance, reluctance or refusal of many members to make regular worship a high priority in their lives. In response, let’s answer the question, “Why belong to a church?”
The Bible verses you could consider would be:
“So in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Romans 12:5
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.” Ephesians 2:19
Back to the question that is asked often: “Why belong to a church?” Certainly the primary, most critical reason to belong to a church (and to worship frequently) is so you can receive God’s gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation that He delivers to us in Word and Sacrament alone. But here’s an additional good reason: To help you find and fulfill your vocation! Think about it this way: What good is a keyboard without the computer? What good are countless things, unless they are connected to certain other things? You can discover your vocations as Christian, family member, citizen, and worker – only through a relationship with Christ and others! Listen again to Romans 12:4-5:
“Just as each of us as one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body and each member belongs to all the others.”
Disconnected from the life-blood of the local church, you wander and wither and make excuses about what you are doing. That’s why one of the first symptoms of spiritual decline is inconsistent attendance at worship services. Without a church home you’re like an organ without a body, a sheep without a flock, or a child without a family; You are a spiritual “orphan”. Or worse, you’re a “bunny-believer”, hopping from one church to another without any identity, accountability, measurable growth or commitment.
Your church is a life-long classroom for learning how to get along with God’s family; for practicing unselfish love. There you learn to care about others and share in their experience. Listen:
“If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it. Or if one part of your body is honored, all the other parts share its honor.” 1 Corinthians 12:26
Only in regular contact with ordinary, imperfect believers like ourselves can we enjoy real fellowship and experience the New Testament truth of being fruitful, connected and dependent on each other. We can ask again: “Why belong to a church?” Because:
• It helps you develop spiritual muscle. Listen:
“As each part does its own special work, it helps all the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy.” Ephesians 4:16
It may seem easier to be holy when nobody’s around to see you, but it’s a false, untested holiness. Isolation breeds deceitfulness. It’s easy to fool ourselves into thinking we’re mature when there’s no one to challenge us. Real maturity only shows up in the give-and-take of relationships.
• It can keep you from backsliding. Not one of us is immune to temptation. Given the right situation, we’re all capable of blowing it! Listen:
“Encourage one another daily, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:13
“Mind your own business” shouldn’t be in your vocabulary as Christians. “Live and let live” is just the world’s way of saying “Neglect and let die”. We’re called as God’s people to be involved in each other’s lives in a loving and caring way!
If you know somebody who’s wavering spiritually right now or has been away from the fellowship of Word and Sacrament for a while, it’s not only the task of the pastors or elders; we share in the responsibility to go after them and bring them back into fellowship as members of the Body of Christ in this place. Your efforts may have a very positive impact, and also wide-reaching, eternal consequences for those now absent. St. James writes:
“My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” James 5:19-20
“Why belong to a local church?” Because the crucified and risen Christ lives and dwells there, giving His gifts freely and joyfully. Because it gives us infinitely, eternally more than what the world offers us. Because there we learn of God’s loving work for us to do for others. Because we have there innumerable brothers and sisters. Because there we receive guidance and the strength to face life’s temptations and struggles. There’s nowhere else on earth where you can find all these benefits!
Heavenly Father, thank You for the people in Your Church, Your body. As imperfect as they are, I fit in nicely. Help us to help each other. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Pastor Lance Berndt