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Why Going to Church Isn’t Enough

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Shortly after beginning my position with Grad Resources last year, it became apparent that I could no longer maintain my part-time position at the church where I had been serving. Believing that the best thing an outgoing minister can do is to leave quickly, quietly and honorably, Holly and I proceeded to find a new church home.

While the process of leaving was painful, we found ourselves searching for a church home for the first time in our marriage. Each of our previous churches were decided when I accepted ministry positions with them. This was our first time to search and not take employment into consideration. To be honest, it felt very freeing. It didn’t take very long bouncing from church to church before we began craving the sense of community that comes only from a committed church home.

For us, our choice about where to join was of the utmost importance to our marriage. It involved deep prayer and consideration. We wanted to find a place where we could connect with other believers, a place we could call home for decades.

This stands in stark contrast to the idea many people have about local churches. In Dallas, where there are as many churches as restaurants, the decision of where to worship is often treated with the same triviality as where to go for dinner. Rather than committing to one congregation, many families bounce from one church to the next based on their perceived needs at that point in life.

Tragically, this mentality robs many Christians from experiencing fellowship in a local church as it was intended. Simply going to church is not enough. Notice Luke’s depiction of the New Testament church in Acts 4:32-34.

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

I love how Luke describes the relationships among the Christians…”of one and heart and soul.” The church devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings just as we do today through the reading of Scripture. But this isn’t where it ended. They went out of their way to provide for the needy among them, even selling real estate to cover for those who were falling financially behind. The souls of the people were knit together!

Relationships like that don’t develop in quick conversations before the worship service or on the walk back the parking lot. They develop from individuals with a shared devotion, pursuing the same priorities while suffering through life’s difficulties together. Can you honestly do this by just showing up at church once a week and then isolating yourself and your faith the rest of the week?

In order to experience the gift of Christian community as intended, I believe we must look for three specific things in a local church and commit to that congregation for the long haul.

A Place to Connect

Mine and Holly’s church has been blessed with an incredible pastor who speaks from God’s Word each Sunday and lovingly seeks the best for his congregation. It’s hard for us not to love the staff. One of my best friends serves as the student minister and my mom is the children’s minister. As great as these qualities are, they weren’t the final selling point.

It’s the personal connections that make our church so special to us. Our young adult Sunday school class is loud, hysterically nerdy, and deeply involved in each other’s lives. The men gather to play Halo every Monday night while the girls watch whichever reality show they are into at the time (right now it’s the Bachelor). Without fail, the class gets lunch together each Sunday. When someone buys a house, there is always a housewarming party. When a couple is having a child, a baby shower is planned. When someone is suffering, the entire class is there for them.

Our church provides encouragement for us, accountability, and support through difficult situations. Sunday mornings have become my favorite time of the week because I get to see our friends. They remind me that my faith, while personal, isn’t private. This is vital when looking for a church home. The church is ultimately a community, not a location or a weekly event. Seeking out a place within that community to be encouraged and challenged is essential.

A Place to Grow

While Christian community is important, it must be rooted in the Gospel. Our church offers so many opportunities for members to grow in different elements of their faith. Men’s fellowships, women’s Bible studies, parenting classes, courses on understanding the Bible, and other gatherings flood the church calendar each week. This is to say nothing of the one-on-one discipleship taking place among individual members on a regular basis.

It’s important to find a church where the reality of our sin, the scandal of the cross, and the victory in Jesus’ resurrection is preached regularly. We need to be consistently reminded of God’s endless grace and the importance of allowing Christ to transform our lives. A church that isn’t rooted in these realities is nothing more than a country club.

A Place to Serve

Finally, it’s important to find a place to serve. One of my college professors would often tell us that serving others forces us to get over ourselves. We can’t read about the Gospel or develop a community around it and not begin serving our cities in light of it. I love that our church is not only active in our community as a congregation, but individual ministry is constantly emphasized everywhere you go.

Once you join a church, don’t make the mistake of simply taking it in. Become a part of the ministry within the congregation. Disciple some teenagers. Become a mentor to a young adult. Find out where your church is demonstrating the Gospel within the city and plug in.

Even more importantly, ask those within the church to pray for you as you minister in your everyday life. Take what you’re learning and find ways to apply it in the workplace or in your home. Seek out the wisdom of others and commit to learning how the Gospel informs all of your other priorities.

In the end, Holly and I are so thankful to have found this in Preston Ridge Baptist Church. I challenge you to find the church where you can connect, grow, and serve rather than the place with a cool worship service or a flashy facility. More importantly, commit to that church. When things get tough, dig in and get involved to make it better. The Church doesn’t need anymore fair-weather fans. We have enough of those already.

Discuss: What has been the most important thing you’ve gained from committed church involvement?

Posted in: Church, Miscellaneous

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