Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why I Love the Local Church

This is actually not the topic I was going to write about this morning, but while I was thinking about the other topic I was contemplating writing, this one popped into mind. So this is more of an impromptu post than I normally write ... in other words: bear with me.

The local church. There is much talk amongst us Christians about the importance of, the necessity of, the value of: the local church. And I have come to the conclusion that it is for good reason. Recently, I finished the new release RetroChristianity by Michael J. Svigel -- a DTS professor and elder at our local church here in Dallas. It was a thoughtful reflection on evangelicalism as a whole and what we as Christians need to do in order to "reclaim" the faith of our forefathers. As I read through the book I was provoked to think more deeply about the why of how we do things in the local church and Christianity as a whole. In my experience, it has taken me quite some time to grasp the importance and necessity of the local church body and for me to understand the reasons why all Christians must strive to serve the church with "all his energy that he powerfully works within me." (Colossians 1:29)

In college, shortly after I became a Christian, I began attending a church about 25 minutes away from my university in Jupiter, Florida called Grace Immanuel Bible Church (see picture below). It was the grace of God that led me to this church, and while it is by no means perfect (as no church is), this body of believers was who God used to shape me as a young Christian in the faith. I learned much from sitting under the teaching of wise, godly men and through spending time with older, humbler women who showed me what being a godly wife and mother truly looked like. It was at this church that God began to show me the importance of a local body of believers. I quickly made many friends both older and younger and for the first time saw what "fellowship" in the truest sense, looked like. Though as a young Christian, I had my own ideas about community and I was skeptical about some of the ways in which I was being exhorted to be involved. As these ideas of mine began to be challenged, I couldn't help but admit that my opinions were solely that: my opinions. The gracious arguments against me were coming from none other than the Scriptures themselves. After getting married and working through these issues with Chance for a whole year, disagreeing often, we moved to Dallas where Chance would re-start classes at DTS.
Upon arriving in Texas, both Chance and I had made up our minds that we did not want to "church hop" but we wanted to settle into one church, as soon as possible. We visited Scofield Memorial Church that first Sunday and have been there ever since. Chance had attended the church prior to moving back to Dallas, and was encouraged by the ministry there. Over the past year, both Chance and I have come to realize our naivety and immaturity in some of our past 'beliefs' and opinions about the local church body. Scofield is currently in a transitional phase in their life as a church - almost 135 years old! - and we have seen first hand the work that God has been doing in the lives of its members and congregants. We have grown fond of the body of believers that calls Scofield its home and have cherished the opportunities we have had to serve there. From Sunday School teaching, to preaching in youth group (Chance), to speaking at a women's outreach event, to coordinating the volunteering of youth workers, to "captain-ing" ScoGames teams, to serving hot dogs at an apartment complex outreach, God has used all of these opportunities to grow both Chance and I in our love for and desire to serve in, the local church body.
If I had to sum it up, I would say that the major reason why I have come to love the church is because 1) Scripture says that Christ died for his bride: the church; and if he loved her enough to die for her, then I had better love her too; 2) The body of believers serving one another in Christian love. The second reason, my friends, has been an active way in which I have witnessed the gifts and talents of God's people all working together for the mutual benefit of others, and the glory of God. It has not always been pretty, but it has been truly genuine. As believers who are reconciled to God, but not yet fully redeemed, we still have our own sets of problems and sins. Multiply that by hundreds of church members and that makes for a whole lot of problems. But by the grace of God, he chooses to conform us to the image of his Son while we serve one another and seek to benefit others for the sake of Christ and for the glory of God's gospel. He uses our faults, our insecurities, and even our failures to show us that apart from him we can do nothing. We look to Christ, as his body, the church, to get our strength and to find our identity. As we serve and seek to honor him, he blesses our efforts in turn blesses those whom we serve. It's an amazing entity that all Christians not only should be a part of, but must be a part of. What a privilege and what a joy that God gives us each other: "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 the body does not consist of one member but of many."  (1 Corinthians 12:12,14) And that's why I love the local church.

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