Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Tuesday's Top Ten Plus Ten [Do I really need to go to church?]

I've been asked many times, "Do I really need to go to church? I can worship God just as well hiking in the mountains, or sitting at home reading the Bible with my husband." (I asked it at one point and time in my life as well (see #2). It's partly true. You can, and should, worship God in all that you do, even while hiking. So let's see if you change your mind about finding a place to call your church family after reading Melany and I's top ten reason's you should in fact attend church...

1. Due to growing up in many churches where I saw my family struggle as a result of pastoring I was one of those people who believed the church was the last place to find Christians. I viewed people who went to church as hypocrites and liars. I wanted absolutely nothing to do with them. Although you will always find hypocrites and liars (aren't we all?!) in every church in all parts of the world, generally the people who go to church are the one's that are hungry for something else, something better. They're looking for answers to life. What I've come to understand (because of time in God's Word AT CHURCH) is that we're all liars, hypocrites, and judgmental, stupid, foolish, idiotic human beings. We are all so wrapped up in our own lives and in our own sin that we don't see the bigger picture. The church is a place to go to plant seeds and let God work on the growth. I didn't see that for a long time.

2. When we first got married I tried to convince my husband that we could worship God in our own home, by spending time outdoors, etc. We began our walk with Christ on our first meeting with the pastor who married us -- when Kyle accepted Jesus as his Savior and I reaffirmed my life for Him. It was then that our pastor encouraged us to find a church home. I was skeptical, but Kyle set out to do just that. He found a men's Bible study and began to grow in his knowledge of Christ. He purchased a "his and hers" devotional set and we began an attempt to keep Christ at the center of our marriage by learning and discussing Him. Although the devotional sets were helpful, they often missed the mark, incorrectly applying God's Word. (We didn't know that at the time.) Still, God used this devotional set in a remarkable way. While Kyle felt lead to find a church home, I was still unconvinced, so Kyle asked me to pray about it. I consented to that at least and the very next morning I got up to read my daily devotion, the topic was CHURCH. This is what it said,

All believers together form God's family, and only by meeting together can we bond. The church exists in part to equip God's people to do God's work by encouraging them in their faith. At church, Christians learn to work together and to practice reconciliation between different people in a way that is only possibly by Christ's spirit. When we meet together, we can build each other up and help each other. (Tyndale House Publishers, The One Year Mini For Women)

I didn't even have to pray before I knew the answer: God was asking us to go to church. Just that one story alone (proving divine intervention) is enough to convince me that church is a necessity. Because we have a church family, I FINALLY understand why church is invaluable in a Christians life. What the writer of that devotional stated is true: only by meeting together can we bond, the church exists in part to equip God's people to do God's work by encouraging them in their faith, we learn to work together, we learn to practice what we preach, we help each other and we build each other up. Need I list more reasons than that?

3. The amount that you grow and learn about Christ through your pastor's teaching in God's Word (word for word, page by page, sentence by sentence, book by book) will change you as a result. Your faith in God should be strengthened as you learn more about Him. If your pastor teaches from God's Word you're not hearing pointless opinionS, (because there's only one that matters) so by studying God's Word correctly, you are learning about God's character. By learning God's character you begin to want to reflect it in your own day to day life. Learning about God through HIS WORD matters most in your walk as a Christian. There's no better way to do that than at church.

3. If the pastor is teaching God's Word correctly, you are surrounded by people who understand their sin and praise God for His grace! In other words, the church should be the first door open to sinners, because WE ARE ALL SINNERS. The more you understand sin, the more you understand how amazing the gift God gave us on the cross. We are all equal inheritors to the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, instead of judging one another, we should welcome each and every sinner with open arms. Should we allow sin to continue in the lives of our fellow believers? No! That's also the accountability piece and the teaching in God's Word we all desperately need.

4. You are surrounded by like minded people. You become like, who you spend the most time with. The people you want to emulate are Christ-like in character: patient, kind, humble, self-less, loving, etc. I doubt you'll find that at the bar every Saturday night, been there, didn't find it.

5. You find encouragement through these people to persevere in your faith, to keep your eyes focused on Christ, and rest in His abundant grace. Sometimes, especially on our lowest of low days, we need like-minded people to remind us that despite our forever changing circumstances, God is unchanging, God is faithful. We also need daily reminders and encouragement in the hope we have in Christ. Also, knowing there are people who care enough about me (because we are united in Christ) to pray for me and with me, makes a world of difference on a day of doubt. We need to minister to one another, otherwise our faith will waver.

5. Church unity. The book of Ephesians explains this unity so well! We are all one body, serving Christ. Let's do it together.

6. As a church body, we share equally in the inheritance through faith alone in Christ alone. We will all be serving God together in heaven, basking in HIS glory, worshiping Him. What we do together in church is a small, minuscule reflection of eternity. Enjoy the people He has blessed you with, in fact, love them all up. You can have a wonderful friends that will endure for all eternity!

7. Remember how I said in #1 that your pastor plants seeds and God gives the growth? Well I thought it important enough to put twice: go to church with the expectation to learn God's Word through a pastor who rightly teaches it, where we learn how to rightly apply it to our own lives, and then we join together in living it out day by day. BUT if seeds are never planted, how will you grow? The pastor gives us the tools to rightly handle God's Word on our own, just reading won't do ya a lick of good unless you know how to read it correctly. Don't believe that's important? (Check out 2 Timothy 2:15 and let me know what you think.)

8.  We share a common goal. We are all connected to one source of life: Jesus Christ. We have the same life line and with the understanding that Jesus died for all of us, comes the understanding that we are in this together! We live life for HIS glory and stand strong in the face of a world telling us not to or that it's ridiculous.

9. John MacArthur has a wonderful sermon titled, "Do we need the local church?" This one quote did it for me: "Active local church membership is imperative to living a life without compromise. It is only through the ministry of the local church that a believer can receive the kind of teaching, accountability, and encouragement that is necessary for him to stand firm in his convictions. God has ordained that the church provide the kind of environment where an uncompromising life can thrive."

10. We were called into fellowship with our fellow believers. (1 Corinthians 1:9) Fellowship, camaraderie, intimacy, togetherness, it doesn't matter how many synonyms I come up with here, we were called to fellowship with one another. John MacArthur explains the essence of fellowship: praying for one another, loving one another, forgiving one another, rebuking one another, reproving one another, building up one another, restoring one another. And then whatever gift you were given, use it minister to your fellow believers! That's fellowship. And Paul argues again and again that we need it in order to grow as Christians.

I liked another one of John MacArthur's sermons on church (here) so much that I had to end it with another of his quotes,

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