Why Should I Attend and Be Involved in a Local Church (Part 1)

I have been involved with ministry through local churches in one form or another since 1996. It has been an honor to serve as a pastor, Christian School Administrator and Evangelist. I am currently a Church Planter and Pastor of Flagship Free Will Baptist Church in Erie, Pennsylvania. I have heard numerous reasons, opinions and even excuses why people do not attend church faithfully. However, I have not heard one legitimate, scriptural reason why people should not attend and be involved in a local, Bible-believing, Christ-honoring church. I believe Scripture gives plenty of reasons why faithful church attendance and involvement should be a “no-brainer” amongst followers of Christ. The following are just a few reasons:

  1. God designed Christ followers to need other Christ followers. God never designed for His children to grow, mature and flourish in isolation. Even Christ Himself, brought a group of men into His daily ministry known as the disciples. Being the God-man, He needed nothing, but He set the example for us. He made it a practice to go the Temple regularly. The Old Testament reveals this truth as recorded for us in the Book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon wrote: Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, HCSB)

Christ-Follower-Logo-for-webAs the Apostle Paul addressed the local church at Corinth, he explained to them that the church was much like a body. In fact, the church is the body of Christ! In this explanation he said, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ ” (I Corinthians 12:21, ESV) A Christ follower may say he/she does not need other Christians, but when they do they contradict the very truth of Scripture. We need other believers in our lives just like our body needs all of our body parts. For a hand to fulfill its function and design it must be attached to the body; therefore, for a Christian to fulfill his/her function or design, they must also be connected to the body of Christ.

  1. After the church was born in the book of Acts, Christ followers gathered together on a regular basis. Acts 2:42 records, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Acts 20:7 records another occasion of believers gathering together, this time to hear the Apostle Paul preach, “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.” (Acts 20:7, ESV) They did not get together for a one-time event, but rather devoted themselves to learning the Word of God together. They also spent time with one another and prayed together. There is nothing in the New Testament that indicates this should be optional or if there will be a time when this type of gathering would cease. As a matter of fact, other Scriptures indicate this type of gathering and fellowship would become more and more necessary as time went on.

 

  1. Scripture refers to “elders” or “pastors” of specific churches. If local churches were not part of God’s plan then why did God ordain elders/pastors to oversee local congregations? The New Testament repeatedly alludes to this. Here are just a few references that you can turn to for your own personal study: Acts 14:23, 15:2-6, 15:22-23, 16:4, 20:17; Titus 1:5; James 5:14; I Peter 5:1-5.

Don’t Give Up

In the latter part of Luke 18 we read about a blind beggar sitting near the roadside asking for help. In those days many people who were crippled or blind were at the mercy of others. Government assistance was non-existent, and if their families did not or could not care for them they often resorted to a life of begging.

We can only imagine the desperation that must have been in this man’s heart as he heard that Jesus was passing by. It is obvious that somewhere along the way he had heard of this man who touched blinded eyes, made the lame walk again, and was offering hope to the hopeless.

Scripture tells us that he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” However, the crowd wasn’t very merciful to him. The crowd told him to be quiet. The crowd told him to stop. To the crowd he was simply a nuisance and a bother.

But he wasn’t going to let the crowd keep him from calling out to Jesus. The Bible says that he cried out even more. His concern was not the crowd, his concern was Christ! He was not going to be quiet until he heard from Jesus. Even though he couldn’t seen Jesus, he believed that Jesus was his only hope, and the solution for his blindness.

Jesus is attracted to our weakness. He doesn’t walk by and ignore the cry of faith and desperation. He is the Great Physician, not only for our bodies, but most importantly for our souls. He is waiting to show Himself strong on our behalf.

Jesus stops and heals the man. However, the man’s life is never the same. His faith in Christ not only allowed his sight to return, but it also brought reconciliation in his soul. Jesus said that his “faith had made him well.”

When he left that day he didn’t forget what Christ had done. He didn’t use Jesus as a “spare tire” to get what he wanted out of Him and then forget about Him. He left that day glorifying God! This miracle, and his response to it, caused others to give praise to God as well.

Regardless of what voices are telling you that “waiting on the Lord” is just a waste of time…don’t give up.

Regardless of who is telling you that you are beyond help and beyond hope…don’t give up…turn to Jesus.

Regardless of where the circumstances of life may bring you…don’t give up…through a personal relationship with Christ you know that He is right there with you!

In the words of Winston Churchill, “never give up!”

Choose the Best Part

Who is the most important person in your life? Pretend you haven’t seen them in 18 months and they were coming for a visit. You knew they would not be able to stay long and you are not sure how long it will be before you will see them again. However, you are filled with joy and excitement because you are going to be able to spend a little time with this friend or family member. You want to make it special so you begin to plan for the celebration of the ages. You spare no expense in your preparation and finally the time comes! The doorbell rings and standing on your front porch is the one you have been longing to see and hold in your arms. The greeting is sweet and your entire household is thrilled. You invite your guest in and you rush into the kitchen to finish the final preparations for your exquisite meal with them. The rest of the family gathers in the living room to hear the latest stories from your honored guest.

Minutes and hours pass by as you put the final touches on the food, the trimmings and the dessert. The dining room table is decorated with your finest china. The crystal glasses from attic have been washed and they glisten in the candlelight. Everything is now ready and you walk into the living room to invite your guest and your family to come in for dinner. However, your guest looks at you with tears in their eyes as they place their cell phone back into their pocket.

“I have to go,” they say. “I just received word that my mom has been rushed to the hospital after a tragic car accident and they are not sure she will make it. I’m so sorry, I will have to catch the next flight out.”

Your heart breaks as you watch them speed out of the driveway and then reality hits. While you have spent the last three hours preparing to entertain and feed your guest, you have spent no time with your guest. Now the opportunity is gone and you have no idea when you will have it back. The last three hours have been a waste and the very one you wanted lavish your love upon has now gone away.

The same is often true with us as Christians. We are “busy” for the Lord and in the Lord’s work…yet how much time do we really spend with Him?

In Luke 10:38-42, Martha was busy preparing a meal for Jesus. There is no more important guest than this. Martha was doing a good thing for a good reason. However, she was upset at her sister who was enjoying the presence of Jesus, but not helping in the kitchen.

Martha asks Jesus, “Do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

Jesus’ answer may have surprised Martha and it may surprise you as well. He said, “Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Jesus reminds Martha that she has gotten so busy try to do things “for Jesus” that she has neglected spending time “with Jesus.” Jesus lets her know that He is not going to rebuke Mary, because Mary has chosen the best over what was good. Yes, it’s good to serve Jesus, but when serving Jesus causes us to neglect Him it becomes a burden rather than a blessing.

As a matter of fact Scripture indicates that our service to God will be much more productive if it is preceded by time spent with God! So let me encourage you today to just spend some time with Him in prayer and His Word. It will be time well spent!

Is Anything Too Hard for God?

The atmosphere was electric. Herod was being praised, the unbelieving Jews were thirsty for more blood and Peter happened to be a convenient scapegoat. This is the summary of Acts 12:1-4. Peter has been arrested, and he is surrounded by 16 well trained soldiers in a locked prison behind a locked gate. Surely his destiny is sealed and all hope is gone. It would take a miracle…it would take divine intervention for Peter to walk out of this prison a free man. However, that’s exactly what happened. Notice verse 5 of Acts 12 and notice the word “but”-

So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.

The word “but” in the preceding verse is a word of contrast. It links the impossible situation to the improbable solution. That solution is prayer to God! Notice several things with me today:

What Did They Do–They Prayed!

There are many things they could have done. They could have went to Herod’s palace and tried to come up with a solution. They could have tried some type of attack on the prison to set Peter free. They could have given up hope and just walked away. However they chose to PRAY!

Secondly notice:

How Did They Pray–They Prayed Earnestly!

The word “earnest” is an adjective that means “stretched out.” The KJV translates this word “without ceasing.” However, it means more than just a prayer that is stretched out in length. It is a prayer that is stretched out in intensity and earnestness.

Picture a family surrounding the bed of an accident victim and they have just been told their loved one will not make it through the night unless a miracle takes place. Imagine the “intense and earnest prayer” that may go on as a result. This is the picture we have here. They did not recite a meaningless prayer, but they cried out to God with a broken heart.

Thirdly:

Who Did They Pray For–They Prayed for Peter!

They were interceding on Peter’s behalf. They realized he was in prison and realized that in a matter of hours he would probably be dead. However, we understand that because of Peter’s faith in Christ, his execution would only land him in Heaven.

We all know of people who are in far worse prisons than what Peter found himself in. They are in a spiritual prison. They may be in a prison of drugs, alcohol, greed or some other thing that Satan is using to blind them to the Truth of the Gospel.

If the early church was willing to have a passionate prayer meeting for a Christian, how much more should we pray for those who do not know the hope they can have in Christ.

We also see:

Who They Prayed To-They Prayed to God

They did not pray to Herod.

They did not pray to saints.

They prayed directly to God.

They did not go to God as a last resort, but rather a first resort!

Finally:

Who Prayed–The Church Prayed

The church is not brick, mortar, pews or windows. The church are those who have placed their faith in Christ and have been adopted into the family of God.

Because of sin we cannot expect God to hear our prayers (Isaiah 59:1-2). However, when we trust Christ to forgive us and cleanse us of our sin we have access to God through prayer! The reason we have this access is because of our mediator–Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5).

If you read the rest of the story you find out that God did intervene on Peter’s behalf. God opened the door to Peter’s freedom and allowed him to continue to live.

I do not know what type of prison you or your loved ones may be facing today. However, I know that Jesus Christ holds the keys and can set you free to enjoy the life He has planned for you!

 

 

Not a Fan-Chapter 3: Knowledge About Him or Intimacy With Him

Chapter 3 of Kyle Idleman’s book is another great one. He uses the key texts of Matthew 15:8 and Luke 7 as a great launching pad for this chapter.

Matthew 15:8 says: This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me…

Idleman says that this verse shows the difference between “knowledge and intimacy.”

In Luke 7 we have the story of the time Jesus went to eat at Simon’s home. Even though Simon had Jesus in the home, he was extremely rude and neglectful to his guest. He offered Jesus no kiss of greeting, no water to wash his feet and no olive oil to anoint his head. As a Pharisee Simon had spent his life studying the OT Scriptures, but he did not recognize the Promised One that was standing right before him. He knew all about Jesus (the Messiah), but he did not know Jesus!

That is the question we must answer as well. Do we know about Him or do we really know Him? We find later in this chapter a sinful prostitute had more respect for Christ than this highly religious man did.

The author of the book asks a very thought provoking question when he says: “Who are we most like?” Do we just know Him, or have we poured out ourselves at His feet desiring to know Him?

Truth Is: God Knows Your Heart

Truth is God knows YOUR heart!

Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah when He said in Matthew 15:8-This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me… 

This verse indicates that it is possible to say the right things on the outside but be wrong on the inside. God also reminded the people in the OT that man looks on the outside, but God looks on the heart.

What does God see when He looks at our heart? When the mask is peeled away and He sees us as we really are, what does He see? Thankfully, if our faith is in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, He sees our sins have been cleansed and He sees Christ’s righteousness in the place of our wickedness. However, He knows what we struggle with, He sees our false motives and He is aware of our waywardness. We need to remember that God is not looking for us to pay Him “lip service” but rather He desires a heart that is madly in love with Him and motives that are pure.

If you have a Bible read 1 John 1:9 and let the truth of that verse soothe your soul as you bring to Him the things in your life that He already knows about.

Help for the Helpless

Someone once said, “God helps those who helps themselves.” I’m sure in the context of that conversation some well meaning person was possibly looking at a lazy individual who refused to work, but was also struggling financially. However, that statement has been used in all kinds of ways and has been used to lead many people away from the Lord. In reality, the greatest help we need is not something we can do to help ourselves at all. The greatest help we need is to be reconciled to God…and we are helpless to make that happen. God helps those who realize they can’t help themselves and turn to Christ for the solution.

We cannot work our way to reconciliation and forgiveness. We cannot do enough good things to make reconciliation or forgiveness take place. It is only God’s mercy and grace that will enable us to experience the help we need that comes as a result of placing our faith in Christ.

In Mark 5 we see three helpless situations. These people could try to help themselves, but nothing was changing. The answers they had hoped for had only left them empty and hopeless. They needed a touch from the Master, and they needed His touch desperately!

The first individual we are introduced to is found in Mark 5:1-20. Jesus interacts with a man who is demon possessed. We will find later that this man is possessed with a multitude of demons. He is a terror to his community. He runs around nude, cutting himself and has super human strength. He is living in the graveyard. Imagine trying to bury a loved one with this guy running around. But then Jesus steps on the scene. The man runs and bows before Jesus and as Jesus sends the demons into a herd of pigs that jump to their death. It isn’t long before this man is clothed and in his right mind. And just like anyone who has been forgiven and changed by the power of God, this man has a desire to spend time with Jesus. However, Jesus has a mission for him. Go back home and let your friends and family know what I’ve done for you! That’s our mission too.

Then Jesus gets word that Jarius’ daughter is deathly sick (v. 23). Immediately Jesus begins to head to Jarius house, but before he can get there he meets someone else with a desperate need (vv. 25ff). She has had a disease for twelve years. She has spent all of her time and money looking for a cure, but no one could help her. She had heard of a man named Jesus. She heard that He was able to touch blinded eyes and maybe she had even heard what He had done for the man possessed with demons. She thinks, “If he can help them then surely He can help me. I won’t bother Him, I will just touch the hem of His garment and I will be made whole.” As Jesus passes through the crowd she stretches out her arm and touches his clothing and immediately she is made well. Jesus rewarded her faith with healing!

But then tragic news! Jarius’ daughter has died. Jesus got distracted and He is too late. No! Jesus is never too late, He is always right on time. Jesus reached down on this little girl’s death bed and raised her back to life (v. 41).

You see friend all of these people were helpless to help themselves! There was nothing they could do to change their circumstances. The needed the touch of God! The same is true for us! Sin has separated us from God and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, we can do to change that. However, Jesus came and took upon Himself the curse we deserved because of our sins and offers to us forgiveness, reconciliation and peace with God. You may look for it in other places, other things and other people, but Jesus is your only hope! Turn to Him today and let Him make you whole!

Not a Fan-Chapter 2: A Decision or a Commitment

In this chapter Author Kyle Idleman deals with the story of Nicodemus in John 3. When Nicodemus first met Jesus was he a follower or a fan? The author makes a good case that Nicodemus started out as a fan but later became a follower.

Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin, who were the religious elite. He admired Jesus and believed that Christ was definitely sent from God. However, if he were to follow Jesus it would cost him dearly. Many of the religious leaders of that day would ostracize him. He would have to choose between a relationship or religion.

Following Jesus means that He will interfere with “our life.” It would eventually cost Nicodemus a great price. However, according to the author most people want Jesus without following Him.

Kyle concludes this chapter by asking a thought provoking question: Have you made a decision for Jesus or have you committed to Jesus? Jesus’ invitation was to follow after Him, to believe upon Him. Biblical belief leads to following Him, not merely a mental acceptance of certain facts. If we truly believe Christ, we will follow Christ.

Chapter 2 is another thought provoking read.