Is it possible to live a full life in Christ apart from the church?
Better on My Own
Some people argue that they don’t need to go to church to be a good Christian. Some seem to think they’re better Christians apart. I’d say some of them aren’t really Christians at all, but there are plenty of nominal Christians at church every Sunday, too. There’s pride in keeping oneself separate from active participation in the Body of Christ; there can also be pride in service. A believer on his own lacks others to help bear his burdens in trials and temptations, as we’re commanded; a believer participating in a local church can be hurt by others in that body.
Living in relationship can be hard. A local church is a family, and strife arises in all families, because families are made up of people. It’s uncomfortable when our quirks, foibles, insensitivities, imperfections, tender spots, and sharp edges bump up against each other.
When believers come together to worship and serve God, part of that is serving each other, as is working together to serve others. Another part is teaching and learning more about God and His Word. Encouragement, edification, and exhortation are all part of a healthy church. And when we’re called out for sin, it can hurt.
Where do you most need accountability? You can read more about one of my hardest areas of struggle in In Need of a Clean Heart: Sex, Societal Lies, and Bipolar Disorder.
Bumps, Bruises, and Deep Wounds
Church, when it’s functioning as it should, hurts sometimes. When we want church to only feel good, we get in trouble. Speaking and hearing the truth in love help us grow in Christlikeness. So does putting up with learning to love insensitive people, and people we just don’t naturally like.
Unfortunately, abuse can also occur in a church family. Not everyone who calls himself a Christian is following Christ. Not everyone in spiritual authority belongs there. When people are abused or exploited, or otherwise mistreated, in a church, it can make getting involved in a local church again difficult. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t. Their wounds won’t be completely healed outside of communion with other believers.
Has depression and mental illness left you feeling like a leper in church? Read Health, Wholeness, and Being a Nose Hair in the Body of Christ.
Stubbing My Toe
In 1 Corinthians, when Paul talks about the various parts of the Body, and the necessity of each, it’s important to remember parts don’t function on their own. If I’m a toe, the Body can’t properly balance without me; detached from the Body, I can’t function as I’m designed.
Maybe I’m not a toe; maybe I’m a nose hair. It doesn’t matter. Each of us is designed to fulfill a unique purpose. With Christ as the Head, we are most ourselves when we live our place in the Body in all aspects of life, bringing His grace to a hurting world.
Read more about serving God broken in Proclaiming Truth: What I Have I Give.
Listen When He Speaks
Let’s face it… We need each other in the Body of Christ, but too often we let corporate worship and Bible study slide. To encourage us to be actively involved in a local church and interact in community with fellow believers, August’s Listen When He Speaks theme is Fellowship. Even people who are home-bound with chronic illness can be a vital part of a local body. When you’re unable to be present physically, you can still be in contact and provide important spiritual and emotional support. Prayer and words of encouragement aren’t the only ways to support and fellowship with your church from afar, but too often we overlook their importance.
For a great example of the faithfulness of a woman who thought she’d run and toil for the Lord until she died, but spent years bed-ridden serving and laboring in a different way, check out A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael. She’s one of my heroes.
We pick up in August where we left off in July, with the rest of 1 Thessalonians 2 and on into chapter 3. Unlike most months, we find our suggested memory passage in the next day’s reading. Some of you may have seen this coming… Hebrews 10:23-25. . I gravitate toward the NASB for study, but appreciate how the NIV puts it:
Listen When He Speaks is a monthly Scripture reading and writing plan designed to help us get into, or back into, a daily habit of reading and interacting with the Word, and taking the time to listen and apply what we learn. Find out more about Listen When He Speaks.
Already signed up? Download your August list here!