What's so important about the local church? (con't)
The local church is a place where some pretty basic human needs are met. Abraham Maslow placed food and water near the top of our hierarchy of needs, and I don't know of a Baptist church that doesn't make eating their third ordinance. But other human hungers are fed through your church—the yearning for friendship, encouragement, a helping hand in a crisis, a listening ear. Churches are communities of caring. Before substituting the golf course for Sunday morning worship you may want to ask the golf pro if he is willing to perform your funeral or officiate at your daughter's wedding.
The local church is a place where discipleship is modeled. Not everyone at your church or mine gives you an idea what a Christian looks like, but watch folks closely and you will see more than one whose walk and talk bears some resemblance to Jesus. When it comes to following Jesus no one is perfect, but churches have a few folks who seem to be taking discipleship seriously. These role models hang around church more than the mall.
The local church gives you and me a channel for living beyond myself. Everywhere I turn someone or something is urging me to indulge my fantasies, pleasures, habits or thoughts. Unchecked, the default option is to enthrone the almighty I. My congregation invites me to let loose some time, money and passion for people and causes that otherwise go unsupported or understaffed. The local church is an antidote for the world's selfishness.
The local church holds individual Christians accountable. It challenges us to be and do better than we would without its positive influence. It keeps you and me aware that life is invisible and eternal, not just that which we touch or taste here and now. In this way it enables us to do more than live this life; it helps us hope for its extension beyond these mortal days. Most Christians have never realized that we are as accountable for our hope as for our achievement.
Perhaps these thoughts will jiggle your thinking about the value of your congregation for you and your community. Obviously Jesus thought a community of disciples was essential to his movement to extend the Kingdom of God.
(Excerpt from the July 15, 2004, issue of the Religious Herald.
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