“I don’t need the church”

There is a growing movement of people who are tired of the church and believe they can serve God just as effectively without the church. They take advantage of media ministries and books and believe they are adequately fed.

I admit that I have a vested interest in the church. We are committed to making teaching available on the Internet, radio, and YouTube, but I believe strongly that we are to be part of a community of saints.

Here are some reasons

  1. It is the pattern God set for His people. Throughout the Old Testament and New God called His people together for corporate worship. Gathering with other believers has value whether we can readily see it or not. We need the encouragement others give us AND others need the encouragement we can give.
  2. It is commanded. Hebrews 10:25 “Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing.” No matter how you justify it, absenting yourself from the church is to ignore the clear command of the Lord.
  3. It is selfish to withdraw from the community of the faithful. Jesus calls us to serve one another. To withdraw from the church is a selfish act. It is to dismiss your responsibility to be part of a caring and encouraging community.
  4. It is short-sighted. There will be times as a believer that you will need the help of others. There are times we need the strength that community can give. If you don’t nurture community, there will be no one there in those times. Worship is also richer when we are together. Christian radio is great, but it is not the same as corporate worship.

Are there times when the church is hard and frustrating? Yes. Are there times when it seems like it is more work than it is worth? Yes. But God knows what He is doing. He designed us to work best in community. Learning to work through the frustrations of the church prepares us to work through the frustrations of life.

Spiritual Discipline

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.
(1 Corinthians 9:24–26).
 
Just about everyone you talk with will tell you that they are diligent about working out or . . . they should be. Most of us would like to lose weight and we know that the only way to do that is through discipline. We must discipline ourselves to eat better and to move more. We must discipline ourselves to get good at a sport, at playing an instrument, and even in our marriages.
 
Paul reminds us that what is true of our physical life is also true of our spiritual life. We know we need to be disciplined to be healthy but for some reason seem to think we can be haphazard and grow spiritually. It doesn’t work. The person who is not disciplined in the way they follow the Lord (by times of prayer, Bible Reading, worship with other believers, reading good books, and Bible Study) will get spiritually sluggish and become ineffective in their walk with Christ.
 
Develop a spiritual exercise program and then stick with it. Exercise is NOT a dirty word. But it is not an easy or pleasant word either. It is, however, the highway to a healthier and more productive life.

A devotional thought from 1 Corinthians

But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much.
(1 Corinthians 8:1–2).

I have always loved the statement: “some people are educated well beyond their intelligence.” What we DO with what we know is important. The person who knows much but loves little, really doesn’t know much at all.

The Bible is clear: “the Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Wisdom comes from knowing that all truth is God’s truth.

What matters is not the degrees on the wall (though I am very enthusiastic about education), but the bent of your heart. Put aside smugness. Be wise. Take what you know and use it to bring honor and glory to the Lord. Honor Him by loving those around you.

Different Kinds of Churches

I have been reflecting on the different kinds of churches you may find in the world. I do not mean different denominations. There are different views of what the church should be. Let me picture them this way:

Religious Exercise Club – this is the church where people come to do their religious things. It is very formal and impersonal. Religious duty is practiced to keep “God off your back” for another week. Bibles are in the pews but they are seldom, if ever, opened.

Social Club – this is a club that meets in a church or has church in its name. There is little mention of God and no significant attention is given to the Bible. What draws people is the commitment to some cause or the fun of being together.

Political Action Group – all talk here is about politics. Concern is for social and political action. God is called upon to “sponsor” the group. The Word of God is used to show that God wants to bless our nation. But, He will do so only if we vote the correct way. Prayer is a plea for God to smite the wicked (those who do not agree with us).

Concert Hall – People are drawn to these churches “for the music”. The music is often loud and unintelligible but everyone is having a good time. There is a feeling of elation that people equate with worship. The favorite Bible verse is, “Sing a new song to the Lord”.

The Woodshed – In this church people attend to find out all the bad things they are doing. The speaker points out areas where they are falling short and what they need to do so God will no longer be mad at them. The Bible is used as a club to beat people.

The Theater – at these churches each week is an “event”. People are drawn because of the unexpected. They come hoping for a good show. The Bible is referenced in the dramas. The emphasis is on the good stories.

The Hospital – This is a gathering of wounded people who seek the Great Physician. Some seek healing from their sin, others are in “spiritual therapy” eager to lean how to live a spiritually healthy life following their healing. The Bible is read not as a rule book but as a manual on life. People are welcomed regardless of their disease.

I suspect I have tipped my hand as to which is the kind of church God wants us to be (the Hospital). I hope this is the kind of church we are. Can you think of other “kinds” of churches?

 

NEWEST Book!

Lessons in the Wilderness: Life Lessons from Exodus-Deuteronomy is now available! This is a great aid to your Bible reading at the start of the year. This book looks at some of the key events in Exodus through Deuteronomy and is a sequel to Bruce’s book: FAITH LESSONS: Lessons in Faith from Genesis. Both book are available on Amazon, Wilderness is available in both paperback and Kindle

Meeting with God, A Year of Daily Readings and Reflections – YEAR 2 has just been released (November 10, 2016). This book follows the format of Year 1 of a Bible passage with comments and insight for your daily life. The book is available in paperback and kindle formats. You can purchase the book on Amazon.com or at the church.

Rebuilding Life After Grief and Loss is Bruce’s newest book (May 8, 2016). The book looks at the nature of grief and how to work through this time to get back to living life even as we learn to celebrate the life that is temporarily gone. It’s a brief book but filled with practical ideas. The book is $7.00 on Amazon ($4.00 on the Kindle) and you can pick it up for a discounted price at the church (when Bruce has copies)

Meeting With God, A Year of Daily Readings and Reflections . Is now out. You can purchase a copy either in paperback or in Kindle format on the Amazon.com website. Or you can stop by the church and pick up a copy for the discounted price of $15.00. This would make a great gift for someone you want to encourage in the faith.

A Christian Handbook for Surviving Divorce (When You Would Rather Still Be Married) came out on August 4th. This brief book looks at some practical strategies for surviving the devastation of divorce. It is available in both Print and Kindle formats.  Purchase it Here

College Study

The College and Career Bible Study meets at Rick’s home Wednesday nights at 7:00 p.m. This is a discussion-oriented group for people in the 18-30(ish) year old age range.