We all need each other, but most of all, we need God.
A late hour knock on the door interrupted the preacher from his position before the fire in his den. Unwinding himself from the blanket, he slipped into his moccasins and headed for the door. The gust of wind that hurried the visitor inside was a reminder of the fire’s need; it was a windy winter night in London. The visitor was not unknown; he had been a member of the church for years but had absented himself from the fellowship as of late. With both men warming before the fire, the man tried to explain his disassociation from the church. “Preacher, I have been a Christian and faithful member of the church for years, but at this point in my life, I just don’t see any valid reasons for attending anymore.” While listening, the preacher removed the fire poker from the cast iron holder and started to stoke the coals. The visitor continued, “I have just experienced more hurt than help. I’ve seen hypocrisy, I’ve been judged, I don’t feel like I am being fed from the sermons anymore, the music needs help, and someone a few months ago even had me move for I was in her seat.” While the visitor spoke and the preacher stoked, they both looked intently upon the fire. “I just feel that God can be worshiped from my home through prayer, bible study, and even song,” the visitor explained. While he talked, the preacher pushed one coal away from the rest with the poker. While the man continued presenting his excuses and justifying his unbiblical behavior, they both watched the isolated coal lose its heat and transition from red to grey. Then, without a word, the preacher pushed that coal back in the group, and instantly it regained its warmth and red color, thriving and contributing to the fire once again. The man, eyes filled with tears, looked at the preacher and simply said, “see you Sunday,” as he gathered his things and made his way to the door.
There are certainly times when we feel like this man; some even put action to those feelings and withdraw from fellowship. We could all fill a sheet of paper with our excuses and justifications, the music that doesn’t stir us, the sermons that don’t fill us, the deacon’s that don’t visit with us, and the members that don’t love us. Yet, we are commanded to crucify our feelings and act on truth alone (Proverbs 12:15 and 28:26). So, what does God say about church attendance? Could we not worship Him at home by watching a sermon online, joining a virtual choir, and spending time in prayer and study? According to the bible, Jesus loved the church enough to die for her (Eph. 5:25), has a desire to marry her (II Cor. 11:2), empowered her to advance His love (Mt. 16:18), and will usher her into His presence when this life is over (Phil. 3:20). So, anyone that intentionally separates themselves from a group so loved and used by God is purposefully positioning themselves as an enemy of the cross (I John 4:20).
In my 25 years of pastoral experience, I have mostly found those “Christians” that forgo weekly fellowship and choose to worship at home are the most gospel useless, immature, and selfish people I’ve ever met. When we refuse to submit to the will of God for our lives through our local church membership, we fail in the areas of fellowship, collective worship and prayer, stewardship, discipleship, and practical love (II Cor. 6:1, Mt. 9:37-38). God does not bless those who disregard His will for their life, choosing to make their own way (I Sam. 15:22, John 14:15).
There is a good chance that if you are on the sidelines of the faith, not an active member of a local congregation, you have excellent reasons. I am not trying to minimize your pain or hurt; the truth is, I have been where you are. I am hoping you will prayerfully consider the words in this devotion, read each scriptural reference, and seek God’s will for your life concerning the body of Christ.
Scripture: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body-Jews or Greeks, slaves or free-and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.“
Question: Will you be willing to evaluate your contributions as a member of the local church and, after prayer and reflection, ask God to use you in a greater capacity?
Prayer: Father, you know my heart and any reasons I have for either not being involved or not being used as much as you would desire through your church. I ask you to search my heart and reveal any sins of omission or commission that I may confess them all and be exposed to your grace and mercy. Please give me the mind to understand, the heart to desire, and the strength to follow through. May the primary goal of my life be to hear you say “well done“. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.