Sunday, March 06, 2005

The Importance of Church

Last Wednesday evening my family met with the elders of a local church in Camino, California and identified with that body. Though there are many reasons for assembling in Camino, this church is a much smaller than the saints in Folsom (60 compared with 240). And they're encouraged by the addition of another family.

The transition from Folsom to Camino will be smooth because we've known many of the members for many years, including the evangelist, whom we've known since 1982. Another family that we're close to made the same move last December.

This brings me to my point today: Why is it important for a Christian to join himself to a local church?

As a Christian, I can't conceive of a time or place where I'd have to live without other Christians nearby (and I came close a couple times during my 29 years active and reserve service in the Navy). It should be the goal of all Christians to associate themselves with like-minded brethren who share the same hope in Jesus Christ, who love and encourage each other as heaven comes closer.

We see examples of Christians assembling in churches throughout the New Testament. The book of Acts is full of examples of Christians who "continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42). These Christians had recently been baptized for the remission of their sins. They gathered as a church to encourage each other, to worship, to remember Jesus' death, burial and resurrection and to take care of each other's needs.

To learn more about these Christians, read the opening verses of Paul's letters to the different churches throughout the Mediterranean region. He wrote to saints in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colasse and Thessalonica. Paul's greetings will give you an appreciation of the nature of these people.

But why assemble? We could point to many passages of scripture for an explanation. I recommend that you read through the book of Acts and focus on the churches in Jerusalem, Antioch and throughout the Mediterranean region.

Christians learn in the church the "first principles of the oracles of God" (Hebrews 5:12); children are nurtured and learn to obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1-3); brethren help each other in time of need (Galatians 6:10); and brethren are encouraged by good preaching and sound doctrine (2 Timothy 4:1-2; Titus 2:1). This is all done in the context of love (1 Corinthians 13:1-8).

This brings us to the thought for the week:

Let us hold fast the confession of our faith without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:23-25).
You are not the central focus of the church. We don't assemble so much for selfish benefit or personal gain. It's not, "What can I get out of the experience?"

Rather, the writer of the Hebrew letter commands us to follow Jesus' example to serve others. When you assemble at the building (remember the building is not the church) or elsewhere as a church, the passage says our focus is to stimulate others to "love and good works." The writer says the real sin of missing the assembly is the missed opportunity to encourage others.

Let's assemble today and provoke others to love and good works.

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