One of the “buzz words” that I hear often is “community.” People talk about their neighbors, their friends, their work associates as their community. What concerns me is how many believers have fallen for Satan’s schemes when it comes to their participation in these communities while neglecting their most important community, the local church. Here are four reminders to help you not neglect the church of God.
1. Your Relationships with Other Believers are Not Optional
Hebrews 10:24-25 — “and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Italics mine).
For the people of God (professing Christians), there is only one “community” that is of consequence. This is the assembly of those who profess Jesus Christ, the church. Another name for this community is a “fellowship,” or an “assembly.” It is a group of professing believers under the authority of elders who practice the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper with Jesus Christ as their head.
It is OK and right for you as a believer to be a part of the general pagan community where you live. We are in this world, after all (John 17:16). The issue is when you become so involved in the events and activities of the pagan society around you that you neglect the assembly of the saints. How often I have seen myself, and heard from friends, that those proclaiming to be Christians are more interested in what this world has to offer than in participating in worship with and service to the people of God.
It is sad even to see those who are leaders in their churches would rather involve their kids in sports that take place on Sunday than to teach their kids the value and rightness of worshiping God with others one or more days of the week. Remember, you will always make time for what you really want to do. If you would rather watch a football game than attend a men’s study, then that is what you are going to do. If you would rather go shopping than to a ladies bible study, then that’s what you are going to do.
2. The Most Important Relationships, Besides Your Immediate Family, are to be Those of the Local Church.
Matthew 12:50 — “For whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”
NOW, don’t misunderstand me. There is nothing wrong with watching a football game (I love football), and there is nothing wrong with involving your kids in sports and activities. The issue is when the things of this world that we love (1 John 2:16) come before our commitment to Christ and His people.
If you say that you are a Christian, then you are called to serve the body of Christ (Galatians 5:13; 1 Peter 4:10). By its very nature, it is your service to the assembly of saints which should dominate your time. If you are neglecting participation in the community of saints, then you are in sin, plain and simple. Your priorities are all out of sorts.
Now, I am not talking about being home sick or having a job that requires Sunday work (like firemen, policemen, nurses, etc…). What I am referring to is willful neglect of one’s responsibility to serve Christ by serving His body. If you are not present with the body, then how can you exercise the spiritual gifts that God has given you for the betterment of the body.
3. You are an Essential Part of the Church of God.
– 1 Corinthians 12:27 — “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.”
Did you know that the purpose of you coming to Christ is fellowship? Look at 1 John 1:3 with me. John says he proclaimed the gospel to these people so they might have fellowship with God Himself and with His Church. Jesus wants you to know Him intimately through your growing knowledge of His word and through your participation in the community of believers.
Just as our fellowship with God grows sweeter as we walk with Him, so our fellowship with other believers does as well. An important part of our salvation is that we are able to help others grow in their love for God and obedience to His word and, in turn, be helped ourselves. Remember, you are an essential part of your local fellowship. Paul’s illustration of the human body in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 is a good one.
The body cannot function properly without all the parts working together to accomplish the same goal. For the believer, that goal is the glorification of Jesus Christ through righteous living and evangelizing the lost.
4. You Should Care Core About the Body of Christ Than any Pagan Relationships
-1 Corinthians 8:13 — “Therefore if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.”
In the verse above, Paul makes a pretty profound statement. He would rather become a vegetarian than cause a fellow brother or sister in Christ to sin. Later on in 1 Corinthians 10:27-28 he says that if an unbeliever invites you over to his home and serves you something, and a believer (whose conscience is weak) sees you eating or drinking something that you know would lead him into sin, then it is your duty to risk offending the unbeliever and refusing to eat or drink that item. You are to do this out of your love for your fellow believer.
You are to make your fellow believers the priority because you love Christ (John 13:34). You are to be different, both as an individual and when you come together with others as a fellowship of Christians. Just remember, those relationships you build in the community of God are eternal relationships that will endure forever. Those are the people you should be focused on to love and serve. Those outside of the fellowship of believers will see your love and service and ask why “those” people are so different (1 Peter 4:4).
The question for each of you to ask is: “What are my priorities?” Is the local body of believers one of those priorities or am I merely giving lip service? Your pagan friends might not understand why you are at church so much. Your work acquaintances will think you to be a fool to give up part of your weekend to go to worship instead of going to the beach. Your neighbors will question why your children never make any Sunday soccer/basketball/gymnastic/tennis games like their kids.
The community of God is the assembly of believers. It is believers who are continually fellowshipping with one another. If you refuse to make the people of God a priority, then how can we, or you for that matter, be sure that you are truly part of the church?