For the first 18 years of my life I seldom remember a time when my family wasn’t going to church. Sunday mornings and nights, Wednesday evenings, camping, Christmas services, etc. To be sure, there were seasons where only Sunday service was in view as far as I remember, but I know from second-hand accounts my folks were active participants in the churches I grew up going to.
During this stretch of time, most of my memories(apart from baseball, plastic army men, legos, and board games) involve being at church or being with the people from church. My family was pretty involved, and as I grew older this was the case more and more(primarily my mother… dad had to work ya know–the Military owns you). During my middle school and high school years my mother and her four children were always present and an integral part of the youth ministry. I was, in a small measure, being bred to be a churchman.
When I turned 19 that all changed. I need not retread what was written about here. But there is something to what my family did those 18 years of my young life that most would look at as commendable and good.
Most people look at church as just another club or “thing you just do.” It’s not much more than a hobby, someplace to mingle about at and gather friends, or a source of belonging. Its purpose though, is farther from what most going to church even dare to contemplate, or even consider redirecting their intentions in attending.
When many are asked why they go to a particular church there are a variety of responses one comes across, let me know if you’ve heard or even imbibe one of these:
- I love the pastor
- I love the music
- I need the community
- I feel loved
- I like the theology
- I love the preaching
- I always grew up going to church
- pretty girls/guys
Many of these are not wrong reasons to attend a church, nor to continue going. I would even say if some of these(the middle four) aren’t present, seek to change it or find another church. But there is a foundational reason one should be in a church, stay in a church, and make every concerted effort to help the church you’re in grow; not in quantity but in quality.
Being part of a local church exemplifies your love of Christ himself.
In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul has an extended argument for why the Corinthians should cease arguing about who has what gift and to what extent they have it. He goes so far in his argument that in chapter 13 he says, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but I do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I give over my body in order to boast, but do not have love, I receive no benefit.”
“A clanging gong or a cymbal,” “I am nothing,” “I receive no benefit.” This is the conclusion to his point, that the person not unified in the common goal of the body has no love.
What is the grounding for this rather harsh rebuke?
1 Cor 12:4–7,12–27(edited)
“different gifts…same Spirit…different ministries…same Lord….different results…same God who produces all of them in everyone…It is one and the same Spirit, distributing as he decides to each person, who produces all these things.
For just as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body—though many—are one body, so too is Christ…For in fact the body is not a single member, but many. If the foot says, “Since I am not a hand, I am not part of the body,” it does not lose its membership in the body because of that. And if the ear says, “Since I am not an eye, I am not part of the body,” it does not lose its membership in the body because of that. If the whole body were an eye, what part would do the hearing? If the whole were an ear, what part would exercise the sense of smell? But as a matter of fact, God has placed each of the members in the body just as he decided. If they were all the same member, where would the body be? So now there are many members, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor in turn can the head say to the foot, “I do not need you.” On the contrary, those members that seem to be weaker are essential, and those members we consider less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our unpresentable members are clothed with dignity, but our presentable members do not need this. Instead, God has blended together the body, giving greater honor to the lesser member, so that there may be no division in the body, but the members may have mutual concern for one another. If one member suffers, everyone suffers with it. If a member is honored, all rejoice with it.
Now you are Christ’s body, and each of you is a member of it.”
Not one member of the body is less significant than another, and each has a role to play. Each sacrifices for the good of another. The reason for this, as much of the Christian life is supposed to do, is to have Christians stand out from the rest of the world, for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ and to make it known in every way.
My employer has the management team working through a book to help our leadership improve the overall effectiveness of the company. It’s quite good and a passage I read today struck a chord with me,
“…[some] leaders fail to recognize that to be successful and promotable, they need to not only do a great job with their own team, they also need to build strong relationships and enhance teamwork throughout the organization.” Why Leaders Fail, Peter B. Stark, CSP, AS and Mary C. Kelly, PhD, CSP, pg. 97
If a book, exhibiting how to be a good leader, can pinpoint and give advice on how to run a successful business(as leaders) and hit the nail on the proverbial head(for leaders), and Christians just treat going to church as a pastime. What does that say about our own Christianity? Further what does that say about our view of the local church? Paul in Corinthians isn’t talking to leaders though… he’s talking to a local church.