Lately, I’ve run into some lone-ranger Christians who say “Well, I’m not into church or organized religion. I can talk to God just fine walking on the beach, or gazing at the stars or meditating in the park. I get all the teaching I need from television preachers.”
Even the Lord Jesus didn’t walk alone. At the start of His ministry, He gathered disciples to Himself. At one point He had gathered enough disciples to send out 70 to minister. Among the larger group of His disciples was a group of women who followed, ministered to Him and stood by Him at the cross (Matthew 27:55; Mark 15:40-41).
To really walk with the Lord Jesus, we need to become involved with the rest of His disciples and accept the love of the people of God. It’s not possible to really be walking with the Lord, if, for example, you slip into church after the service starts, sit in the back pew and leave before the service is over, without getting involved with His people. We can’t say we love God unless we love the brothers (1 John 4:20).
God is looking for involvement. He wants us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). When we can do that, it will be much easier to love the brethren. The church is to function like a big family — loving one another, strengthening one another, carrying each others’ burdens.
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Paul said that through Christ, we are to grow to spiritual maturity together, as a group, “being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, [which] causes the growth of the body, for the building up of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:16) In the Body of Christ are life and healing, and we grow strong in Him by that which every member supplies. It is impossible to experience that Christian growth alone and apart from the Body.
Perhaps some of you have had bad experiences in a church and are reluctant to try again. Granted the church is not perfect, and it never will be, because it is made up of imperfect human beings. But it’s the way Christ ordained that we are to follow Him. Jesus disciples weren’t perfect either, and at times showed little love for outsiders, (Mark 9:38-40; Luke 9:51-56), and little love for each other (Luke 22:24-26). But eventually they grew in Christian love and maturity.
If you are one of those lone-ranger Christians, or a church dropout, I urge you to drop back into the Body of Christ and enjoy the blessings of Christian fellowship. Visit a variety of churches until you find the one where you feel the Lord wants you to be. 1 Cor. 12:18 tells us that “God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.” That’s where He wants the Christian to be, in church, worshipping with other believers, and partaking of “that which every joint supplies.”
The Rev. Anne Barber, pastor of My Father’s House Church, 7215 U.S. 301 N. Ellenton. can be reached at 776-9016 or by visiting www.myfathershouseinc.com. Faith Matters is a regularSaturday feature written by local clergy members.