Investing in a Local Church

November 4th, 2007

I was talking on the phone earlier tonight with a friend. She’s been involved with a local Baptist church for a while, but said that she’ll have to find a new one soon–she’ll be moving to another town for a couple semesters for some med school requirements. She knows of at least one good church there, but will naturally want to look around to see what else is there. And she said that she may end up church hopping for a while. She has mixed feelings about it, but is more OK with it than most people. After thinking for a minute, she explained why:

She sees the church in terms of the global Church. There isn’t one particular organization, one building, one group. There’s the global Body of Christ, and she can be part of that whatever church she goes to on Sunday.

I affirmed what she said, but went on to explain why I still see importance in investing yourself in a particular congregation, and not switching churches lightly, but only as something of a “last resort”.

She’s very right about the need for unity in the global Church. We desperately need to avoid the worst of denominationalism–when groups are hunkered down in separate enclaves, with no unity between those who are brothers and sisters in Christ. Depending on where you live, there may be many congregations of faithful followers of Christ, teaching the Word, encouraging and serving one another, and reaching out to the community. And we need to regard all genuine, biblical followers of Christ as fellow brothers and sisters. But the question of church hopping is not a question of whether how many good churches there are to hop between, or whether different churches should be unified. It is a question of whether there is value and importance to investing yourself in a particular group, to having a “home church”.

There is something different about the quality of relationships you form when you invest yourself in one group. You know and are known in ways you can’t experience when you hop. You grow up and build history and grow older with one another. You share achievements and sorrows. You know others well enough to encourage and support them, and to smack them upside the head when they need it–and you have others to do the same for you.

Of course, some people who attend the same church for half their lives may drift through the years, untouched and isolated. The virtue is not in being in the same building every week, but in the relationships you form with brothers and sisters. It requires opening yourself up, risking being hurt, risking letting others know you.

We need deep relationships. We need opportunities to serve. We need deep fellowship. We need to use the gifts of the Spirit to edify one another, and to be edified in return (1 Cor. 12). And the most natural way for that to occur is in the context of a consistent congregation, a community.

So, I’ll be praying that God will bring her to the right church: Strong in God’s Word, filled with the Spirit, serving one another in love, reaching out with Christ to those around them. Somewhere with people who will love her and care for her and know her. And somewhere she can serve.

2 Responses to “Investing in a Local Church”

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