There is one question all Christians ask, and you may even be asking it right now: What church should I be apart of? As you thought about this, or are thinking about it, I am sure many questions have run through your head. Questions like:
- Should I be apart of the church that has a lot of activities and fun things for my kids to do?
- How about the one that perfectly fits my theological niche?
- Or should I go to the one with the dynamic worship service?
- How about the one in which I always feel comfortable?
- Or is it the popular one in town that I should attend?
These are all questions that have been asked by Christians at one time or another when looking for a church. So which is it? Which church should we attend?
What should you be looking for in a church?
I believe the perfect church, and the one we should look to attend, is one that is primarily focused on benefiting others. Now I know that may sound strange to say that we should look for a church that is primarily focused on benefiting others, but if you think about it for a minute, that is the church that will be best for us.
Here is what I mean. If we are all willing to focus on the benefit of others, then that means we are all going to receive some of that benefit. As we use our God-given spiritual gifts, we help others grow. As others in the church use their God-given spiritual gifts, they will help us grow.
When we all focus on benefiting others, we all are benefited.
We all end up growing, maturing in our faith. As well as our community becomes a witness to the watching world.
But on the other hand, if we are only focused on what benefits us, then others around us won’t be benefited, and consequentially no one around us is going to grow, and neither are we.
Now, if we are honest with ourselves, most of us struggle with pouring ourselves out for others. We struggle with seeking the benefit of others over our own. Why is that?
Why do we most often do what benefit us?
I believe we focus on our own benefit to the exclusion of others because we have a sinful desire to be at the center. A sinful desire that is spurred on by American individualism. We may not realize it, but, as Americans, we are very individualistic. I believe American Author, Adam Johnson, captures this sentiment well when he says,
“In America, the stories we tell ourselves and we tell each other in fiction have to do with individualism. Every person here is the center of his or her own story. And our job as people and as characters is to find our own motivations and desires, to overcome conflicts and obstacles toward defining ourselves so that we grow and change” .
Did you catch what he said? “Every person here is the center of his or her own story.” Most Americans have bought into that idea, so much so that we all believe everything revolves around us.
But consider what Jesus says about us in Matthew 5:14,
““You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Mt 5:14)
Jesus tells us we are the light of the world. We are a city set on a hill. If you think about it, a city is not made up of one person. A city is made up of a gathering of people, who have banded together for a particular purpose. Christians are likened to a city because we have all banded together for the purpose of following and glorifying Christ (or at least we should be). As a city we are supposed to shine our light to the watching world for Christ.
We can’t, however, shine our light to the world, if we center everything on ourselves. Instead, a church, whose individual members are centered on themselves, produce discouraged, uncomforted, self-centered, immature believers, rather than a brightly shining light. The result is an unattractive community no one wants to join.
How do we change?
How do we make sure we are a city brightly shining our light to the world? As we have already said, by doing what benefits others. The only way we are going to consistently do what benefits others is to apply the biblical idea of love. It’s love that allows us to sacrifice our own desires and benefits for others. It’s love that allows us to be a growing, thriving, encouraging, and comforting community that is shining as a light into this dark world.
What if we are having trouble loving?
If we are having trouble loving, we need to meditate on the gospel. The gospel message tells us that Jesus loves us so much that He left His heavenly home, became a man, faced the difficulties of this sinful world, was persecuted, and ultimately nailed to the cross. But things didn’t end there. While He hung on the cross in physical agony, dying, the Father’s wrath was poured out on Him, not because He deserved it, but because we deserve it. Jesus hung in our place, taking our punishment, so that we could experience a relationship with the Father and eternal life. He sacrificed Himself because He loves us.
If the love of Jesus expressed in the gospel doesn’t warm your heart, and make you want to sacrifice and do what benefits others, then you may not have experienced the effects of the gospel in your own life; you may not have experienced God’s love. When God’s love comes into your life, you want to share that love with others by sacrificing yourself for them. If we allow God’s love to shine through each of us, we will do what benefits others. As a result, we too will be benefited and so will the community around us.
Question for Reflection
- Are you pouring yourself out for others, or just expecting them to pour themselves out for you?