At the outset of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians Paul gives three things about the Thessalonians for which he was thankful. He gave thanks for their “work of faith”, “labor of love”, and “steadfastness of hope”. Over the course of my ministry, I have seen these things demonstrated in the churches I have served. I have seen firsthand the difference that a church family can make in the lives of individuals during times of joy and of suffering.
Unfortunately, many believers today have forfeited the comfort and encouragement a local body of believers can add to their lives. They have lost contact with their church family and have chosen to walk their walk of faith alone. This fact is reflected in the research that shows people do not put as much importance upon belonging as they once did. This lack of commitment to a local community of believers is widespread all across our country. It is especially strong among young believers. In his book, Disciplines of a Godly Man, R. Kent Hughes describes this lack of commitment to the local church in this manner: “Church attendance is infected with a malaise of conditional loyalty which has produced an army of ecclesiastical hitchhikers. The hitchhiker’s thumb says, ‘You buy the car, pay for repairs and upkeep and insurance, fill the car with gas-and I’ll ride with you. But if you have an accident, you are on your own! And I’ll probably sue.” So it is with the credo of so many of today’s church attenders: ‘You go to the meetings and serve on the boards and committees, you grapple with the issues and do the work of the church and pay the bills-and I’ll go along for the ride. But if things do not suit me, I’ll criticize and complain and probably bail out-my thumb is always out for a better ride.’” While this hitchhiker mentality may satisfy for the moment, it does not give our roots opportunity to grow down deep into the fabric of the church enabling the individual the full benefits of belonging.
In his book, The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren listed six important benefits that come from belonging to a local body:
…A church family identifies you as a genuine believer.
…A church family moves you out of self-centered isolation.
…A church family helps you develop spiritual muscle.
…The Body of Christ needs you.
…You will share in Christ’s mission in the world.
…A church family will help keep you from backsliding.
If you have chosen to give up on church, I encourage you to consider another look. Find a church home that lives up to the love, faith and hope Paul wrote of the Thessalonians. Invest your life in a local body of believers and over the long haul, your life will be blessed. Remember the Body of Christ needs you and whether you realize it our not, you need it.