I used to think those who went to church on Sunday were rather lame. My cynicism about “organized religion” was the altar at which I regularly bowed and I saw no need to partake in corporate worship gatherings. I didn’t need church to know God and my inner rebel was quick to let me know why there was no legitimacy in joining with others in a pursuit of the Almighty. Before coming to Christ I scoffed at the silliness of wasting a couple of hours going through empty religious maneuvers in the presumed presence of a God that I was certain could not fit in that building with a steeple. Church was for non-thinkers, robotic puppets and narrow hypocrites. I’d rather be anything than part of that system.
Then I was saved. Then I was broken. Then I was forgiven. Then I received unconditional love from Christ. Then I was reacquainted with long-forsaken hope. Then I breathed and smiled and laughed and ran free. Then I was made spiritually alive and nothing would ever be the same for me. When I met Christ in the late Summer of 1994, I received new eyes that allowed me to see God by faith. Everything changed that day and one of the most unexpected transformations occurred within my attitude toward the local church. Nobody taught it to me. I didn’t read a book on it. It was an unseen alignment of my heart with other hearts set free by Jesus. Instantaneously, I loved whom Jesus loves. I wanted to go and gather and learn about this thing called the community of faith. I saw that it was, indeed, flawed but I could not turn away because I wanted to be like Christ who refuses to turn away from my flaws…my failures…my sins. Relentlessly, I continued in my commitment to Jesus and His church and now, many years later, it is my ongoing commitment to love those imperfect, up-and-down, sometimes faithful/sometimes not, fickle, beautiful, sacrificial, joyful, vacillating, victorious, determined, struggling, overcoming batch of humanity known as the Christian. I’m not ashamed to say that I happen to be one of them. Here’s what I think now of the legitimacy of the local church:
A local church is for those who sense their need, who do not wish to try to do life alone
A local church is for those who long to give expression to their faith, and believe it is enriched by joining with others
A local church is for those who are pleased to serve others
A local church gathering is a weekly reminder that my ultimate citizenship is above, not below
A local church reminds us that the work of God is as diverse as are His children
A local church reminds me of my accountability to others
A local church calls me to humility and unity, sacrifice and patience
A local church affords a weekly opportunity commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ the Lord
A local church offers me opportunity to learn and grow and serve and connect
A local church is the place I may express my choice to join my voice with others in song, in praise, in prayer
A local church is God’s gift to His own people, a gathering He facilitates because He knows the benefits it brings to His children
A local church is not about me…and that is all the more reason I enjoy it so
I hope you will find one near you. There is treasure there.