Why should you join a local church?

Every now and again, as a Pastor, I get asked,

Why should I join a local church? I mean, I’m a Christian, which means I’m a part of the universal church. I attend church semi-regularly. Why do I have to join a local church?

For the most part, that’s an honest question. And an honest question deserves an honest answer. So:

Why should you join a local church?

I believe there are several reasons. Let’s look closer at those now.

(1) God has commanded it in Scripture. 

The writer of Hebrews says,

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Heb 10:24–25)

First things first. God has commanded us to join together with one another. Since we are commanded to gather together for the purposes of helping one another grow in love and good works, we aren’t to neglect that activity. In order to know which people you are to gather with, you need to commit to them. You show your commitment by joining that particular church.

(2) God has given us the local church as a place where you can:

  • Use your spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12; 14; Eph 4)
  • Learn more about Him (Joshua 1:8; Ps 1:2; 112:1; Matt. 4:4)
  • Be held accountable and be helped to grow in your spiritual walk (Heb. 13:7, 17; 1 Jn 5:14-15; 1 Tim. 2:8; Eph. 6:16-18; James 5:16; Phil. 1:15-18; Gal. 2:11-16; Col. 1:21-23)
  • As well as it is a place through which you can serve others and the community (1 Tim. 5:3-16; Acts 6:1-7; James 1:27; Matt. 28: 18-20; John 6:35-40)

It is hard to do those things if you aren’t a member of a church. That’s because people in the church don’t know if you want them to hold you accountable or not. The leadership doesn’t know if you want them to shepherd and guide you spiritually. Nor does the church as a whole know if you want them to help you use your spiritual gifts.

In reality, you may not even be given the opportunity to use all your spiritual gifts if you aren’t a member. At the church I pastor, if you aren’t a member, you can’t head up a ministry, you can’t teach, you can’t serve on different committees, nor can you be a Deacon. We aren’t the only church that limits people in these ways. Many churches limit non-members ability to serve.

So for those reasons, I believe it is important you join a local church.

When I say local, I mean local.

I know it’s popular to attend a church with a big name celebrity pastor. Generally, they have more resources, deliver better sermons, and produce better content. They didn’t garner the following they have without being able to do those things. While it’s fine to attend those churches, I’m not against big churches or celebrity pastors, I don’t think you should drive out of your local area to do so. I say that because doing so will generally make attending weekly worship services and other church activities a burden. I don’t know about you, but I usually don’t do that which is a burden consistently.

When you aren’t attending regularly, you usually aren’t serving, holding others accountable and being held accountable, or serving the community. Instead, you become a pew sitting consumer who shows up a couple of times a month. When I read Hebrews 10, I don’t think that is the type of gathering together with one another the author had in mind.

Question for Reflection

  1. What are your thoughts on local church membership?

Resources

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Post adapted from my sermon: What is the Church and Why is it Important?

Do You Worship Out of a Sense of Duty or Thankfulness?

In Psalm 50, Asaph confronts Israel regarding their worship and living. What they were doing isn’t much different from what many do today. Their worship was formulaic. In other words, they were going through the motions. Sure, they brought the appropriate sacrifices, but it was done more out of a sense of duty instead of thanksgiving.

Many Do the Same Today

To our shame, many today view the Sunday worship service as nothing more than another box to check off on their spiritual checklist right alongside their morning prayer and devotion. Thinking that way, we drag ourselves to the Sunday Service, sing a few songs, bow for the pastoral prayer, greet our neighbors, place some money in the offering plate, listen to the sermon, and then we are on our way, patting ourselves on the back for a job well done. Why do we do this?

Why Do We Worship Out of Duty?

We worship out of duty because we think that is what God wants or needs. But that is far from the truth. God doesn’t need us, our provisions, or our worship. He owns everything, and He is satisfied in and of Himself. The truth is, we need God. We need His provisions and care.

The Gospel Changes Our Perspective

Instead of faking it, what we need to do is change our perspective. The way we do that is by meditating on the gospel.

The gospel tells us we are sinners, who have rebelled against and offended a holy God. As a result, we are destined to suffer His wrath. However, Jesus came, lived a perfect life, and, even though He didn’t deserve God’s wrath, He faced it on our behalf. He took the wrath we deserve on Himself. All those who repent of their sins and believe Jesus suffered the punishment we deserve, can experience a restored relationship with the Father free from the fear of judgment.

For Jesus’ sacrifice, we should be thankful. For God’s provision and care in our life, we should be thankful. Our thankfulness should drive us to worship God. So when we begin to go through the motions in worship, what we need to do is stop, meditate on the gospel, and remember God’s provisions.

We need to reset our heart, so we see that it’s not God who needs us, but we who need Him.

When we truly see our need for God and how He has provided for us, we should be driven to worship out of a sense of thankfulness instead of duty. When we worship from a right heart, we end up glorifying God. For He says in Psalm 50:23

“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!” (Ps. 50:23)

Question for Reflection

  1. Does thankfulness or duty drive your worship?

Resource

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Learning the Art of Waiting is Worth It

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.” (Ps 40:1–3)

Gone are the days when we have to take a trip to the local store for groceries, clothes, movies, or other goods. In our always connected digital world, we can have them delivered to our house the same day or watch on demand. There are advantages to be sure. We can get more done, relax longer, and play more with our kids.

Our Patience is Growing Thin

However, there are also disadvantages. One is that our patience grows thin. You know what I am talking about, if our movie buffers or our item isn’t delivered in a couple of hours, we feel slighted, and we take to social media to instantly complain about our mistreatment.

A Thin Patience Affects Our Relationship with God

But a diminished patience not only leads us to complain more about companies online, it also leads us to complain more about God.

We think God must work like the companies we both admire and complain about. He must cater to our needs instantly. The benefits of waiting are lost on us.

This negatively affects our spiritual growth and leads to diminished worship. Instead of praising the Lord when He comes through, we say, “Finally, what took you so long.” Instead of leading others to worship God for His faithfulness, we complain, drawing others away instead of towards God.

Learning the Art of Waiting is Worth It

Waiting for the Lord to deliver or answer us is difficult, but it is worth it. God’s plan is greater than ours. His timing is perfect. Recognizing that helps us to see that this world isn’t all about us, our wants, and our desires. Instead, it’s about God, His plan, His will, and His purposes for this world and our life.

While it is hard for us to wait, there is a lot we can learn during that time, so may we learn to wait on the Lord, and may we praise Him even more when He answers us.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you believe our instant society is affecting your relationship with God?

Resource

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A Call To Maturity: How the older generation can train the youth of today

March 2013’s edition of Table Talk Magazine covers Youth Culture. In an article entitled A Call to Maturity, Robert Carver challenges the older generation to train up our youth in the way of the Lord.

While there is a cultural divide between the older generation and the up and coming youth, godly saints still have a lot of wisdom to offer. Walking with the Lord for 30, 40, or even 50 years bears a lot of fruit. Fruit that needs to be shared. Even though formal instruction exists in homes, schools, and churches, informal day-to-day opportunities are available. Carver offers three practical ways to take advantage of the everyday.

How to Take Advantage of the Everything

(1) Love Them Genuinely And Patiently

The younger generation needs to know that the older generation is not estranged from them. The church is a body made up of many members, young and old – all valuable to the functioning of the whole.

In Ephesians 4, Paul describes the saints as growing from spiritual immaturity “to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (v. 13). This process is accomplished “when each part is working properly, mak[ing] the body grow so that it builds itself up in love’ (v. 16).

If we are to have an impact on the young, we must love them, and they must know that we do.

Love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22).

If you are a part of the older generation, don’t be hesitant to tell the up and coming youth you know that you love them (corporately and individually). To love them genuinely and patiently is to love them as God loves us.

(2) Share With Them What Is Most Important to You

One thing that should be important to you is God’s Word. Let the youth see your passionate love for God’s Word as it instructs you, guides you, encourages you, and convicts you. Let them see how vital of a component it is for your everyday life.

I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12).

Share specific passages that have gripped your life recently.

Also, convey to them the essential nature of prayer. Help them to see that it is an activity Christians can’t live without. Do this as you pray with them and for them. Le’ts Paul’s testimony of Epaphras be yours. In Colossians 4:12, Paul testified that Epaphras was “always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God” (Col. 4:12).

Without fail urge them to fight the good fight, to battle tirelessly with sin, and to flee youthful passions (2 Tim. 2:22) that wage war against the soul (1 Peter 2:11).

Furthermore, challenge them to see God at work in all events, including the details of their lives. Encourage them to constantly thank God for all they have and for them to never forget to give Him all glory.

(3) Invest In Them

Buy them books that have made a spiritual impact on your life, and offer to study these books with them. Offer to take them to conferences and other Christian gatherings. The investments we make in their spiritual lives will pay everlasting dividends.

Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days (Eccl. 11:1).

Conclusion

After offering three practical suggestions Carver closes by saying:

So, “to what shall I compare this generation?” Surely it is a generation like no other. But it is also a generation that needs to know Christ’s redeeming love, and needs to shine as lights in the world in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation (Phil. 2:15) – just as we of the older generation needed to do back in our day (and now). May God help us to be examples and loving instructors to them, and may they do likewise.”

I believe Carver’s call and suggestions are helpful and must be heeded. I can speak from personal experience in saying that the older generation has influenced me. I am thankful men have stepped up and spoke into my life. I am afraid though that is a rarity, but it doesn’t have to be.

May those in the older generation feel God’s call to train up the youth of this generation to be the men and women of Christ that they have become.

Resource

Table Talk Magazine March 2013, A Call to Maturity, 23-25.

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How do we lovingly guide our members away from false teaching?

From personal experience, I have found that many church members aren’t discriminate about the preaching to which they listen or the books they read. With so many indiscriminate readers and listeners, we are bound to see many of our fellow members following false teachers, most of which are doing so unknowingly. Not only is this dangerous for their spiritual lives, but for our churches as well. We, however, aren’t to allow those who are indiscriminate to continue to be indiscriminate, nor are we to allow those who we know are digesting false teaching to continue. As pastors and church members, we have a responsibility to lovingly guide them away from error.

How do we lovingly guide our members away from false teaching?

(1) Teach the gospel

If we want our members to discriminate on the teaching to which they subscribe, whether that be a popular radio preacher, best-selling author, or blogger, we have to make sure they know the gospel like the back of their hand. As well as they must know how it applies to all of life. The only way this will happen is if you have a thoroughly gospel-centered ministry. Without rewriting what I have already written, let me just say that one element of a thoroughly gospel-centered ministry is gospel-centered teaching.

Preaching the gospel is no less than telling someone how they are saved, but it is much more than that as well. The gospel has many dimensions, much like a diamond has many facets. It is our job to expose those facets as we teach. As well as it is our job to make sure the gospel informs our application, not works, shame, or guilt.

As we teach the gospel week in and week out, our people should not only come to understand the basic idea that Jesus died for our sin but also how it applies to all of life. Members who have a deep understanding of the gospel should have red flags going up all over the place when they hear or read something that is remotely contrary to what they know to be the gospel.

So one way we can guide our people away from false teaching is through a consistent diet of gospel-centered teaching. Apart from consistently teaching the gospel, there are other things we can do to lovingly guide members away from false teaching.

(2) Provide access and knowledge of biblical resources

If we want our people listening to and reading thoroughly biblical resources, we have to provide them with those resources. One thing I have done on my church’s website and my personal blog is to provide a list of trusted books and authors. On my personal blog, I have also placed links to other blogs/authors I trust. We don’t currently have the resources at my current church to do the following, but other churches I have attended in the past ran a church bookstore, as well as they recommended books each month in the church bulletin. Still another way to expose your people to good resources is to give them away. Set a stack of free books out for the congregation to take. If you do that, you may want to do what one of my former pastors did and make it known that if you take a free book, you are agreeing to be asked about it.

Those are just a few ideas for getting good resources in the hands of your congregation. Hopefully, if you can get them reading your recommendations, they will grow in their ability to discern false teaching. As well as if you can fill their reading list with your recommendations, the time they have to read other things will be limited or non-existent.

(3) Listen and correct

One practice I have found helpful in confronting ideas garnered from false teaching is to listen and correct. As pastors and teachers, it is easy for us to do all the talking, but one thing we must learn to do is listen to what others are actually saying. If we listen, we can then correct them.

When we correct, we shouldn’t do it in a condescending or negative way, but rather with love and patience. When I am in conversation with someone and they say something questionable, I usually say something like, “I am not so sure about that, or I don’t really agree with that idea. Here is what I believe the Bible says about that…” Or if someone brings up a known false teacher, I am sure to let them know my concern with that person. In order to do that, however, we have to be clued into the popular false teachers and know why we disagree with them.

(4) Provide a book review

Providing a book review is another helpful way to address false teaching. I have found Tim Challies (challies.com) to be an excellent source for book reviews, especially on popular level books currently influencing Christian culture. Don’t be afraid to share these reviews with members. After sharing, don’t forget to follow up. A review alone isn’t enough. We also need to gather their thoughts and discuss the main difficulties with the book.

(5) Use social media

Almost everyone I know has a social media account. Social media can be an effective tool for communication and teaching if used properly. In an effort to do just that, I make it a point to post on my church’s Facebook feed weekly. My posts generally cover three broad categories. Some I use to teach and challenge, others are for encouragement, while others are used to inform. I find that to be a good mixture. As well as I try to spread those posts out over the week, which you can easily do by scheduling posts right from your church’s Facebook feed.

(6) Confront

As fellow Christians, it’s important we confront those affected by false teaching with the truth of God’s Word. When we do this, we must go with our Bible’s open, ready to share God’s teaching on the matter. What we think doesn’t matter, as much as what God thinks, so we must confront with God’s Word open in love with much patience.

(7) Pray

Along with providing a steady diet of gospel-centered teaching, a list of resources, correction, book reviews, articles posted on social media, and loving confrontation we must pray and trust the Holy Spirit to work. I say that because it is ultimately the Holy Spirit who draws people away from false teaching and to the true gospel, not us. We can help, but the Holy Spirit must convict and cause a person to repent.

(8) Remove

The above has assumed the person being addressed has indiscriminately subscribed to false teaching. But what about those who haven’t? What about those who are actively spreading false teaching in your congregation? I believe the only option we have when it comes to false teachers, whether they are doing the teaching, or knowingly and actively spreading another’s teaching, is to remove them from any sort of leadership role while making the congregation aware of the false teaching they have shared and its corrective.

If they are not a teacher but are still actively and knowingly spreading false teaching in the congregation, we need to first approach them and ask them to stop. We also need to approach those members with whom they have shared that teaching and provide a corrective. If after approaching them, they refuse to repent and stop spreading false teaching, we must remove them from the congregation by means of church discipline. This may seem harsh, but it is our responsibility to protect the sheep from roaming wolves, which seek to devour.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are there any other ways you would deal with false teaching in your congregation?

Resource

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Are You Connected to a Biblically Minded Church? – Part 4

Evidence matters. It matters in research papers, in the courtroom, on the news, and in churches. Evidence matters because it reveals what we know, what we’ve done, or who we are. In this series, I am focusing in on that last one – who we are – in an effort to expound on the evidence of a biblically minded church (Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

What is a Biblically Minded Church?

By a biblically minded church, I mean a church that is centered on God’s Word, so much so that God’s Word influences the way it thinks and the things it does.

What is the Evidence of a Biblically Minded Church?

I believe there is, at least, four pieces evidence of a Biblically Minded church in Colossians 1:3-14. The third piece of evidence we come across tells us,

(4) A Biblically Minded Church Seeks to Please God

In verse 10, Paul’s prayer for the Colossians is that they would be

fully pleasing to [God].” (Col. 1:10b)

Paul’s prayer should be our prayer as well. We should pray that we would live lives that are pleasing to God. But before we can pray that we would live lives pleasing to God, we need to know what a life that pleases God looks like.

What does it look like for us to live lives that are pleasing to God?

In verses 10-12, Paul tells us that we please God:

(1) When we live obedient lives

That is what Paul is getting at when he says that we are “to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.” Just like a parent is pleased when their children obey, God is pleased with us when we obey Him.

(2) When we make it a point to grow in our relationship with Him

Our relationship with God grows, in the same way, it does with a friend, by spending time with Him and learning more about Him. We spend time with and we learn more about God by reading His Word, praying, meeting with others for Bible study, reading books that help us understand His Word better, and coming to worship service. When we do those things, we are actively seeking to grow our relationship with God, and that pleases God.

(3) When we trust in Him

One of the ways you can know if you are trusting in God is by how you respond to trials and tribulations. When faced with a trial, if you find yourself constantly worrying, getting angry or anxious, you are most likely trusting in yourself. On the other hand, if you are able to endure trials with patience and joy, then most likely you are trusting in God. When we trust God, we please Him.

(4) When we give thanks to Him

When we acknowledge and thank God for all He has given us, we please God.

In all these ways we please God. A church that seeks to please God, then, is the fourth and final evidence of a biblically minded church.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Are you a part of a church that is focused on pleasing God?
  2. Are you a part of a biblically minded church?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon Are We A Biblically Minded Church?

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[1] http://catalystconference.com/read/us-churches-no-longer-in-decline/