I didn't grow up attending church regularly. I did attend a neighborhood church on Easter and Christmas if my parents took me. But it seemed like something you did for the holidays.
It wasn't until I was 18 years old and invited by a friend that church suddenly became personal. It was a much larger church and still seemed irrelevant at first. However, the fact that my friend liked it made me curious.
My friend's interest in me gave me the time and space I needed to see that the kingdom of God was far bigger than my small and limited notion of church. That didn't happen overnight; in fact, it took months.
I met people and experienced moments that convinced me there was something about "church" that was far more than a holiday tradition. Later that year, I said yes to Jesus' invitation to eternal life. None of this would have happened without the church in some form, shape or expression.
It's that simple. It's been my experience that when you disconnect from the church (the people), you begin to drift spiritually. That's not always the case, but in the majority of situations, that represents reality.
Church has changed a lot since I was 18, but the essence is the same. The methods are radically different, but the message is the same. The current culture is dramatically different, but the human condition remains the same.
We need Christ, and we need each other. That truth won't change. The church is the greatest force on earth to that end.
4 Good Reasons It's Important to Be Part of a Local Church
1. We tend to drift spiritually when not connected relationally.
A church is not required for salvation and spiritual growth, but without it, both become more challenging. Without the church as the foundation (the organized body of Christ in some fashion), the message of Jesus travels much slower.
When we drift from a community of believers, the human mind begins to rationalize. "I love God, and He loves me; I don't need to go to church." That's true, but it's only a half-truth and half-truths often lead us down a dangerous road.
The other half is the overwhelming evidence that when you are connected to a group of committed believers, the likelihood of your continued spiritual growth is exponentially higher.
2. Christianity was never intended to be an independent endeavor.
The nature of Christianity is essentially relational. The primary relationship is between God and man—God and woman. That relationship was perfect until broken by sin (Gen. 3:1-19). The relationship was restored by a covenant (relationship), through Abraham (Gen. 12:2-3). That covenant promise was fulfilled through Christ, also a personal relationship.
Christianity was never intended to be a "Lone Ranger" proposition. We need each other. There is no perfect church, and there are no perfect Christians, but together we help each other become the persons God intended us to be.
3. Our shared gifts, talents and resources make us stronger.
None of us are as strong alone as we are together. The spiritual gifts listed in passages such as Romans 12:4-7, Ephesians 4:11-12 and I Corinthians 12:4-11 paint a great picture of how we work together and strengthen each other.
I can't say it better than what is written in Ephesians chapter 4:
He gave some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, for the equipping of the saints, for the work of service, and for the building up of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-12).
... from whom the whole body is joined together and connected by every joint and ligament, as every part effectively does its work and grows, building itself up in love (Eph. 4:16).
4. God ordained the church as His organized plan for redemption.
It's a powerful thought that God ordained only two institutions: marriage and the church. That makes them both incredibly important, and it seems wise that we know what God has in mind for each one. In this post, we'll focus on the church.
... so that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He completed in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him (Eph. 3:10-12).
If church is God's idea, then for believers, it's worth more than academic consideration or participation during the holidays. Your life becomes deeper and richer as you give your whole heart to the people and the mission of the church.
Dan Reiland is the Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as vice president of leadership and church development at INJOY.
This article originally appeared at danreiland.com.
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