By Peggy Guthrie, co-pastor
Salvation Army Church
I've recently been reading the book "The Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren. In each chapter, he explains our real purpose on Earth and states profound truths in simple ways. In one particular chapter, titled, "A Place to Belong," Rick explains how being part of a healthy church is essential to living a healthy life. God created the church to meet your five deepest needs: a purpose to live for, people to live with, principles to live by, a profession to live out, and power to live on. There is no other place on Earth where you can find all five of these benefits in one place.
Worship helps you focus on God; fellowship helps you face life's problems; discipleship helps fortify your faith; ministry helps find your talents; evangelism helps fulfill your mission. There is nothing else on Earth like the church.
The comparison is made of a child who is born - he or she automatically becomes a part of the universal family of human beings. But that child also needs to become a member of a specific family to receive nurture and care and grow up healthy and strong. The same is true spiritually. When you were born again, you automatically became a part of God's universal family, but you also need to become a member of a local expression of God's family.
The difference between being a church attender and a church member is commitment. Attenders are spectators from the sidelines; members get involved in the ministry. Attenders are consumers; members are contributors. Attenders want the benefits of a church without sharing the responsibility. They are like couples who want to live together without committing to a marriage.
Warren asks, "Why is it important to join a local church family? Because it proves you are committed to your spiritual brothers and sisters in reality, not just in theory. God wants you to love real people, not ideal people. You can spend a lifetime searching for the perfect church, but you will never find it. You are called to love imperfect sinners, just as God does, remembering that you are imperfect also."
In Acts, the Christians in Jerusalem were very specific in their commitment to each other. They were devoted to fellowship. The Bible says, "They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers." Acts 2:42 (MSG)
God expects you to commit to the same things today.
The Christian life is more than just commitment to Christ; it includes a commitment to other Christians. The Christians in Macedonia understood this. Paul said, "First they gave themselves to the Lord; and then, by God's will, they gave themselves to us as well." 2 Cor. 8:5 (TEV)
Joining the membership of a local church is the natural next step once you've become a child of God. You become a Christian by committing yourself to Christ, but you become a church member by committing yourself to a specific group of believers. The first decision brings salvation; the second brings fellowship.
Point to ponder: I am called to belong, not just believe.
Verse to remember: "In Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." Romans 12:5 (NIV)
Questions to consider:
1. Do I belong to a local church?
2. Does my level of involvement in my local church demonstrate that I love and am committed to God's family?