16 Apr The Importance of the Local Church
Almost ten years ago, I stepped into one of the most influential places of my life – Tyndale University. Back then, I was just a guy in his mid-20s from Leamington (small town near Windsor), coming to the Big Smoke to do my BA in Religious Studies so that I could do full time ministry. So, naturally, the first Sunday I was there, I found a church that was relatively close, I found the youth pastor, and got plugged into youth ministry as a leader. I was in school to learn to do full time ministry, so why not get hands on experience while I was in school, right?
I found out that I was an oddity within my group of friends, and even within the school. The overwhelming percentage of people in the school, for the duration of their degree, never invested in the local church. Sure, a ton of them were on different teams around the school and volunteered there, and we had chapels, but I’ve always had this question nagging me: Why did so few of my friends invest in a local church in the four years we were there?
The local church is incredibly important to God, which is why He made Christ the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22-23). He addressed specific local churches through the apostles. The local church grows when we love one another (Ephesians 4:15-16). The local church is where we use our gifts to God’s glory (1 Corinthians 12:1-31). The local church is designed to be the place where we regularly worship (Hebrews 10:25). The local church helps to restore us when we are broken (Galatians 6:1-3). The local church is where we fall under the authority of the elders (Hebrews 13:17, 1 Timothy 5:17).
That list is far from exhaustive, but hopefully you get some idea of how important the local church is to God. So now that we know how important the local church is to God, I want to give some encouragement and exhortation to the young adults, but also to our congregation as a whole.
The first way I want to encourage you is with this: Find one local church and invest into it. Don’t church hop. Find a great church that has the same theology you do and invest everything you have into it. Join a small group. Give financially. Serve in at least one ministry, if not more. Love the people – all of them, not just the ones in your inner circle. Pray for the pastors and staff. We have two major schools in our city that provide us with so many wonderful students each year. This is awesome, but it also means we have a lot of transient people. That means it’s really easy for you to come and go and never invest. This is not the plan for the church.
Christian ministries at universities and colleges are amazing and provide great fellowship and support, but they are not the local church. They can often be a great stopgap while we search for a local church, but they are not designed to fill the role of the local church permanently. This was (still is) one of the tragedies at a lot of Bible colleges and seminaries. Chapels, para-church ministries, and Christian groups on campus are often treated as the local church.
Finally, I want to encourage you that when you invest in the local church, you will feel that you belong. A lot of people come through and never get involved, and leave feeling defeated, alone, and lost in the crowd. Especially in our church, with roughly 1200 people per weekend, it is easy to get lost if you never invest. But when you join a small group, people know you and love you. When you serve, people know who you are, and you get a return on this investment, getting to be on the front lines of what God is doing in His people. When you come to prayer meetings, your heart is knit with other believers through calling on God.
The local church is primarily how God will accomplish His goals of edification of the saints, preaching the Word, growing His body, and glorifying Himself. Invest in the local church with all that you have – your time, treasure, and talents. Why? For His glory. I can’t wait until this local church meets again.