Abide with others

Have you ever wondered if Church was really necessary? Have you ever thought to yourself how much easier your life would be if you did not attend a church? You could sleep in another day or go to the beach and you would also not have to deal with some of the people at the church. You may have even thought, “I can get closer to God in a hunting stand or on a beach so why do I need a church?” or “I can go and serve others at local food pantries and other charities so why be a part of a church since there are so many other organizations taking care of those in need?”  You may also think that you have friends outside of the church that you can have deep spiritual conversations with and so going to church is really not something that is beneficial to me.

I think we have lost something about the church and mainly because we have forgotten the purpose of the Church and why it is important to belong to one. Many people treat churches like fitness centers that they join, pay their dues and come sporadically till they find another fitness center that is more convenient and that has more options. Why is it important that we meet together?  Is the Church something that is necessary for me to grow in Christ?

Acts 2:42  And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

We see the early church was devoted not only to Gods word but to the fellowship or a group of people they would meet with regularly for encouragement and accountability.  Coming together on a Sunday Morning is supposed to be more than us just sitting, singing songs, Listening to a sermon and then leaving. Church has to be more than just showing up at a place for a couple of hours and then leaving because if it is not then it is no better than showing up at a sporting event where you never get to know the people you just rally around a common purpose which is your team winning.

The Bible gives many illustrations of what the church is and how it should function and we need to understand what the purpose of the church is or we will not take it seriously and not commit to it.

1)   The Church is a Body

1 Corinthians 12:18-20 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts,[e] yet one body.21 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.”

Many people treat the church like it’s a take it or leave it activity dependent on their feelings or mood. We say things like “I don’t feel like going today” or “I am super tired from a busy schedule so I will just stay home and rest”. Paul uses the illustration of the church being like a body because the church is something we cannot separate from as followers of Christ. Those who down play being a part of a local church have to do something with all of the verses that call us to be a part of something that is not just about us.

1         Corinthians 12:27-30  Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

You are an individual who is part of something that is bigger than yourself. God established His church so that we would need each other to accomplish the task He has assigned us. God established the church so that we not only rely on Him but on others as well. All of the “One Another” verses in the Bible are used to show us how we need to treat one another and use our gifts for one another. I have always said that the church may be limping along because people are not joining a local church or body of believers. If you are a Christian than you have a spiritual gift and if you are not using that gift for the Glory of God then there is a problem because either you have fallen away or you were never really a Christian. God did not give you gifts to be used for yourself but for a church body that can benefit from your gift.

Many churches have people on their rolls that are labeled inactive. The problem with that is that this is not something that can really happen. Can you imagine your arm deciding it was just going to be inactive one day? You would go straight to the hospital to find out what is wrong with your arm. The same is true when people become inactive in church; there is a problem that needs to be addressed. The Bible leaves no room for inactive church members.

2)   The Church is a Bride

Ephesians 5:25-33  Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a] 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Paul goes into this talk about marriage to demonstrate our relationship with Christ as the Church. He seems to go back and forth and at the end he clarifies that he is talking about Christ and the church. From this passage we see several things.

A) Christ gave Himself up for the church

The first question you need to ask yourself is why would you not want to be a part of something that Christ gave His life for? If we are to be Christ followers (Christians) then we need to be concerned about the things He was concerned for and one of those things was the Church which He calls a bride.  One of the reasons many people have given up on church is because the church is trying to be something it was not designed to be. The Church is  a vessel that God uses to redeem the world back to Himself. (2 Corinthians 5:20) When the church tries and work within its own power and not in His (Colossians 1:28-29) then we start to use the people in the church to make a product that is not of Him. My friend Brent Gambrell in His book “Living for Another” calls it a “Fake Fruit Factory”. He goes onto say that a vineyard is quiet and fruit is produced naturally but a Fake fruit factory is noisy and smelly and what it is producing has no value to those who need nourishment from it. Many churches look productive and busy but in reality what they are doing is really just burning people out who then leave the church. Jesus purpose was to make the church Holy and presentable to God by the washing of His word so the world would see it as His Bride and not a manufacturing plant.

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

We are to hold each other accountable and spur one another on to good works especially if we think He is coming soon. To be in a church means to give yourself away just like a married couple gives part of their lives away to each other.

B) We should love the church like we love ourselves

If we are going be the church that we are called to be then Love has to rule but the reality is that people irritate us. Part of the irritation is God using them in our lives to get rid of things that are not like Christ. We say things like “That person irritates me” but have you ever wondered why you are irritated by them? Have you ever thought that the problem might be you and not them? We all have areas in our lives that need some work to become what we are called to become but if we just abandon them then they will not get any better.

1 Peter 4:8-11 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Those we love we tend to overlook their faults but those we hate we remember every little annoying thing they do. This is similar to someone who when dating a person they overlooked many things but once they were married all their faults were visible. A church just like in marriage is having people in your life that will help shape and form you to be more like Christ.

The Love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13 is read in many weddings that I have performed but the chapter was not written to married couples (although it applies to them) it was written to the Church.

Corinthians 13:4-8 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.Love never ends.

Imagine if this is what the Church demonstrated patience and not remembering wrongs done to them what the impact on the world would be. I know there are many people who have left churches because of how they were treated and I understand but maybe if we loved people the way Christ loved us then we could overlook some of the things they have done to hurt us. I know there are times to leave a church and I am not asking you to put yourself in harms way but some people leave a church over small offenses not taking into a count that the person who hurt them is hurting themselves. The NIV version say “Keeps no record of wrongs” but I know many church going people who keep a list of things that have been done to them. In John 13:35 Jesus tells us that by our love for one another people will know we are His disciples. The church in America has not shown the love of God to the world because we have not loved our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are part of a church for God’s glory not our own and when we love others the way Christ loves us then the world will take notice and see that there is a God who defines true love.

C) The Church should be unified

We have to remember that the Apostle Paul is talking about marriage while talking about the church. A man and woman in marriage should cling to each other in unity and not allow little things to tear them apart because Love is the perfect bond of unity (Colossians 3:14).

2 Corinthians 12:20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.

1 Timothy 5:13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.

Have you ever been a part of a church that was having problems and people were leaving? Did you get a phone call from someone who is just trying to tell you why you should side with them? People that go from “house to house” whether physically or through phone calls should know that they are hurting Christ bride. Matthew 18 gives clear instructions on how a matter should be handled among Christians but many churches tend to do things the way of the world.

When a team is not unified the mission suffers and we have to remember that we are on mission with Christ to point people to God. Eternity is at stake and many people will not hear the truth of Jesus Christ simply because brothers and sisters in Christ did not love each other the way that Christ loved them. Whatever takes away from the Mission or the great commission is a distraction from what we are called to do.

3)   The Church is a Representation of Heaven

In Ephesians 5: 32 Paul said he was referring to the church. I always wonder if those who hate the church think that Heaven is going to be any better. The Church represents what is to come but in a perfect way. The friendships we form here on earth will last for all eternity. Some of the people you sing with you will be singing with for all of eternity.

Churches should be known as a place where friends meet yet so many people who attend church do so but do not want to really get close to anyone. I believe it is because of a lack of close connected friendships people find themselves being able to go to any church to hear a message and sing songs. If the church is supposed to be a place where we are truly the Bride of Christ because we are a “Body of Believers” then people are going to have to make an effort to make friends and not just acquaintances

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How to build Friendships in Church

A) Prioritize friendships: You have to be a friend to have a friend. If you do not know anyone in the church what are you doing to get to know some people?

B) Build Unselfish Friendships: Do not seek people to build your business or your network.

C) Beware of Substitute Friendships: Social media is not a substitute for having face to face friendships.

D) Prepare for Disappointments: People will let you down but the risk is worth the reward.

E) Be Transparent: To know someone you have to be known. (Use Caution and not too quickly)

F) Make Friendship about spiritual growth: How can I pray for you? How are you struggling?

G) Know your limits: You cannot be friends with everyone.

He created marriage. It’s a shadowy outline that points to the real reality-Christ and the Church. The same is true, I believe, for all the biblical metaphors for the church. They are the shadows of something even greater. Think also of Paul’s reference to the heavenly Father ‘from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name’ (Ephesians 3:15) God place earthly father on earth so that all the world would have a shadowy outline of what our relationship with the heavenly Father is to be like. Why do you think God has created brothers and sisters? Again, so that everyone gets a dim sense of the true reality that begins now in the local church and awaits us completely in glory.” (Church Membership, Jonathan Leeman, PG 76)

We are the salt and light of the world that is to show people the way, the truth and the life. When we live in love and unity with each other we show people there is a better love than what the world has to offer. When we function as the Body and Bride of Christ we point people to God through Jesus Christ. The World does not believe our message because they do not believe our lives.

 

John 17:20-21 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

What is keeping you from being committed to a local church? Is it selfishness or bad experiences?

What is keeping you from having meaningful friendships?

Would you pray that God would show you how you are to be a part of the body of Christ?

Would you pray about some of the hang ups you may have about church in general and what might be keeping you from joining one?

 

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