So first, I want to let everyone know why I haven't posted in a while. I decided to post once or twice a month instead of weekly. Rather than cramming a half-hearted post in weekly, I wanted to take some time to think about what I want to write, to pray about it, etc. Thank you guys for understanding!
Okay, now on to our topic.
For the majority of my life, I've had no real church.
No true biblical fellowship, no solid preaching, no firm Christian body.
Yes, I've been a member at a few churches, and each one had it's strengths and weaknesses. I've grown through different churches we've attended, but mostly, all the churches I've been apart of ended up with a major flaw. After my family and I left a church in 2016, I've had little to no church home. We tried home church for several years, we did loads of church shopping, but we couldn't find a single biblical church. All the churches we tried were unbiblical in some way. And while some hear that as an overstatement, some of you know what I mean. My family and I weren't being picky, overly judgemental, or legalist. We simply were examining the Bible to see what the Church should look like, and none of the churches we visited were matching what we saw in Scripture. So for several years, I was left to figure it out without a church authority over me. At the time, I had no idea what I was missing out on. Because I'd not been a part of a church for an extended period of time, I kind of forgot what the church really did in a Christian's life. I mean, hearing a good sermon that convicts you was enough, right?
It wasn't until my mom asked me if I wanted to go to a women's bible study at a church that my thought process changed. She knew of the woman that would be leading it, and on a whim, we decided to try it. The very fact I went with her was divine intervention. My mom and I both are EXTREME introverts, so for us to go to an unknown church, with unknown people was a big deal. Oh, and did I mention it was one hour and twenty minutes away from my house? At first, I was going to try to back out of the whole evening. I then decided that one night couldn't be that bad, and my mom really wanted to go. We would go once, and then never think about it again.
But God had different plans.
Though both my mom and I walked into it that church honestly terrified, we were pleasantly surprised. The women were so kind and welcoming. We immediately felt encouraged. We listened to an incredible lesson, then broke off into small groups. And for the first time in a LONG time, I was able to gather with women, open God's Word, and learn more than "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade." So much of modern Christian women events are "fluffy", consisting of cute slogans and small talk. No one, least of all women, discuss deep biblical truths and debate theological concepts. But this church did, and I was blown away. I began to remember what it felt like to be apart of a real church. I felt energized and awakened. And while I didn't know how long we could drive one hour and twenty minutes every week, I decided to soak up whatever I could.
It's been almost a year since we first went to bible study. We now go to the church on Sunday, and still attend the bible study. We have many friends there, my mom, sister and I are being discipled by three godly women, and my mom has recently been asked to teach the teenage girls. The sermons are deep theologically, but also understandable and practical. I am convicted every week, yet encouraged. I am growing in my faith in ways that were impossible before we found a church.
That's not to say it's been roses and sunshine since we've attended this church.
While I believe with all my heart that discipleship is necessary for the Christian (more on that in an upcoming post) it hasn't been easy exposing my own sins to another person and asking them to hold me accountable. I've been told some really convicting things that were hard for me to swallow. But that's part of the church's job. It is supposed to-among other things-challenge me to do the hard things...and then hold me accountable! No, it's not always fun, but it is oh so necessary and beneficial.
The church is more than just a "weekly dose of guilt"as Brad Paisley says. It's more than something to check off a to do list. It's even more than a good sermon. It's a place that Christ's body gathers to learn more about Him, to encourage each other, and to serve.
So Christian, do you attend a sound, biblical church? Do you even know what that looks like? I would encourage you to read your Bible and find out (Check out 1 Timothy, Titus, 1 Corinthians 12, among others). Find a trustworthy pastor on YouTube and listen to some sermons on the church. (I highly recommend John MacArthur's How to Recognize a Real Church) As you study, evaluate your church. Is it biblically sound, both in doctrine and in practice? Are you growing in biblical wisdom and practical knowledge? Is your church encouraging one another and building each other up? (1 Thessalonians 5:11) Is it a place of conviction and encouragement? Of course, you must balance this with the fact that we are all sinners so your church will make mistakes. But overall, this is how your church should look.
And if you believe your church is biblical, you must ask yourself some questions. Where am I serving the local church? How can I contribute (besides monetarily) to the local church? Am I taking the lessons and sermons to heart, or am I simply hearing and not doing? What changes have I made in my life since coming to this church? Am I continuing to change? Am I pouring into some younger people inside the church? Am I learning from my elders? Do I attend church regularly?
This may feel like a lot, but I encourage you to study your Bible to learn what God says about both the role of the church in your life and your role in the church. So many Christians end up passively attending a building weekly, nodding during the sermon, and then never thinking twice about the church through the week. Don't let this be you.
I'm sure some of you are asking how this applies in the middle of a pandemic when a lot of churches are closed down. It's a difficult question, and I want to be careful in my answer. First I would say that these questions can still be answered if your church is closed. You can still be studying your Bible during the second wave of lockdown.
Second, you have reason to question your church if they are still closed. Yes, I know that many governors have mandated the church to close. But it's become clear in this second wave that many governors are targeting churches. Though I can't cover it in full depth, this article by John MacArthur's church says it well.
I'm not saying to completely abandon your church if they are shut down again. But to go to the leadership of your church and discuss why they believe shutting down is biblical is worth some thought.
These are hard times, but as Peter puts it, "We must obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29)
To those who cannot find a biblical church, I encourage you to above all, pray like crazy. I would never have thought that we would find a solid church, but here I am. Let me tell you, prayer was a major part of finding the church I'm at now. Second, you have to be willing to make some sacrifices. Driving very far isn't optimal, but having a sound church is much more important than sleeping in on Sundays. If you don't have enough money for gas, maybe you cut out a fun activity you do to save some money.
America has made church a nice hobby, but Scripture commands us to treat it with absolute priority. I know it can be hard, but you have to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to gather with fellow believers.
I pray that you consider what this article says, and that the Lord works through this article to convict and encourage you.
Love from the farm,