Too many Christians subscribe to the notion that they don’t need to be an active, committed part of a local church family. But scripture insists that whenever we dismiss this part of faith, we not only end up weaker, but we injure the larger body of Christ.
The New Testament gives us at least a half-dozen metaphors (word-pictures) of what a healthy church is in the eyes of God, and each metaphor provides a reason why it’s critical that we move heaven and earth to get involved in one.
One of these metaphors is a “brotherhood” or family. Time and again, Christians are told to regard each other as “brothers” or “sisters”. It is not just a cliché for us to look at each other this way. There is something very real about this – in fact, the bond that you can have with a spiritual brother or sister can often be deeper and more intimate than the bond you may have with a physical family member.
If the church then is a family, this suggests a compelling reason to get involved in one: it will help my love for people grow through fellowship.
Because what does God expect us to do within this brotherhood or sisterhood he’s given us? He expects us to care for each other and grow in love.
Jesus said in John 13:34 – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” And Paul in Philippians 1:9 wrote – “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more.”
So why do I need to be part of a local church to do this, to grow in love?
Well come on, think about it. Love by its very definition requires another person. You can’t love others when you’re by yourself. You might feel warm fuzzies for someone else on your own, but love isn’t primarily a feeling; it’s an action.
Love by its very definition requires another person. You can’t love others when you’re by yourself.
In the Bible’s famous “love chapter” (1 Corinthians 13), we’re told that love is patient. Well to display patience or grow in patience, you need to be around other people who will push your patience-buttons. Love is kind. To grow in this virtue, you need a place to test out your kindness-muscles. This requires being around others. Love does not envy. Overcoming this sin requires being part of a community where you can have this burned out of you.
The church is what we might call a laboratory of love. It’s where love can be worked on, experimented with. It’s where we get adjusted, sanded down, worked over.
Do you think this is an easy thing? Of course not. The church is filled with messed-up, broken sinners who needed Jesus to die on that cross for them. And I’m Exhibit A. And you’re Exhibit B. Don’t come into a church with the Rodney King kind of whining, “Can’t we all just get along?” as though this ought to come naturally.
But when you come into a healthy church where the Holy Spirit is present, where there is a spirit of forgiveness, grace and second-chances, slowly but surely Jesus will start to teach you how to love, and how to care for others who are not like you except for their common need of Jesus Christ.
If you’re not part of this laboratory of love, or if every time things get difficult or complicated you pick up your toys and go somewhere else, then you won’t grow in love. The problem in church life today is people never give one another the time and space that is necessary to grow in love.
Bear Clifton is a pastor, writer and screenwriter. His blogs and devotionals can be enjoyed at his ministry website: trainyourselfministry.com and his writing website: blclifton.com. Bear is the author of “Train Yourself To Be Godly: A 40 Day Journey Toward Sexual Wholeness”, “Ben-Hur: The Odyssey”, and “A Sparrow Could Fall”, all available through Amazon.