I’ve been in church my entire life. My parents faithfully brought me every chance they got. Sunday mornings. Sunday nights. Wednesday nights. And trust me, there were times when I didn’t want to go. But that never made a difference. I was saturated in the Bible from birth. The local church was the centerpiece of my childhood. And now, at 20 years old, I’m incredibly thankful to have that story.
I’m more in love with the local church today than I’ve ever been. I realize the importance of the local church like never before. Now, maybe you’re thinking, “Duh, Isaiah. Of course you love the local church. You’re a minister!” That’s true. And maybe I’m slightly biased. But I wholeheartedly believe in the power of the local church. Maybe because the local church has shaped me into the person I am today.
The local church might be what is missing in your life. And there’s no better time to commit to a local church than the start of a new year.
There’s a popular quote that reads, “I believe churches are meant for praising God. But so are 2 a.m. car rides, showers, coffee shops, the gym, conversations with friends, strangers, etc. Don’t let a building confine your faith because we will never change the world by just going to church, we need to be the church.”
I love this quote. It’s true. I’ve worshipped God in my car, at coffee shops, the gym (well, sorta), and conversations. And I certainly agree that the church isn’t a building. Rather, it’s the people of God who live for Him each and every day. But we must not allow that to keep us from understanding the incredible importance of belonging to a local church.
You may be a Christian. Maybe you even read your Bible. You pray. You fast. You serve others. But are you committed to a local church where the gospel of Christ is central? Because even though being a Christ follower is more than a local church, it’s the local church that fuels our love for God and each other.
Let’s turn to the book of Hebrews.
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (10:19-23 ESV).
This passage of scripture reveals the work of God for all who come to Him in faith. Through the blood of Christ, we confidently find ourselves in the presence of a holy God. Through the broken flesh of Christ, we find forgiveness for sin. We find life. And as the author of Hebrews describes, we are redeemed and purified before the Father.
It’s the gospel. We have been reconciled to God through the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. And now, through our confession of faith, we abide in the presence of God forever. It’s the story of salvation.
But the author of Hebrews doesn’t stop there. He continues, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 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” (v. 24-25 ESV).
We can be saved. Redeemed by the blood of Christ. And passionately in love with God. We might even read our Bibles and volunteer at the local food pantry. But the author of Hebrews seems to imply that our Christian lives are intricately connected to the local church.
The local church is like fuel for the fire of a personal relationship with Christ. It’s a community of encouragement, accountability, and gospel-focused instruction. It’s a fellowship of believers who come together to worship, pray, serve, and love.
Consider this beautiful depiction of the early church: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42 ESV).
They devoted themselves. They resolved to make much of Christ together.
How important is the local church to you? What step is God calling you to take towards growing and serving in the local church?
Maybe it’s taking the time to visit some churches in your community and allowing God to lead you where He desires. Maybe it’s getting more involved, becoming a member, or inviting others to your fellowship. I’m not sure what your next step looks like. But it’s worth doing.
Commit to a local church more fully in 2020. This might be what you’re missing.
Isaiah Pauley is the Minister of Worship for Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va. Find more at www.isaiahpauley.com