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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Only Local Church

"We give thanks to God always for all of you . . . mentioning . . . remembering . . . and knowing (1 Thessalonians 1:3-4).  Paul mentions this local church constantly in his prayers.  He remembers their 'work of faith', 'labor of love', and their 'steadfastness of hope'.  Paul's heart for this church is expressed in 1 Thess. 2:17 and his heartache that occurred because he was απορφανίζω  'torn away' from them. He wanted to come to them, but at this time he was hindered.  He had a great desire to see them "face to face", but was unable at the time.  Paul loved this local church.

Praise the Lord that somebody truly has a love for a local body of believers.  Paul had preached the gospel that birthed this church and was run out of town for it (Acts 17:1-9) along with Silas.  It is safe to say that Paul had paid some high prices as a result of his love for the local church.

It seems strange today that when a pastor speaks highly of the local church and teaches clearly the responsibility of the church members, someone will inevitably say, "So you think your church is the only church in town".  It would be akin to someone reading Paul's letter to the Thessalonians and concluding that they were the only church in the world.  This type of response to a pastor who loves his church and teaches responsibility for his members is unfounded and misguided.

For an example one would only need to consider marriage.  A man begins to explain what a wonderful wife he has, how patient she is, how loving she is, and how beautiful she is. The people that he shares this with respond and say, "So you think your wife is the only woman in the world".  The husband would aptly respond and say, "No, she is just the only woman in the world that I have committed myself to in marriage".

The church that you belong to is not the only church in the world, nor the only church in your town, but the church you belong to is the only church that you have committed yourself to serve your Lord in.  Certainly there are biblical reasons and exceptions for leaving a local church, but many people are leaving churches for reasons that cannot be justified by the person leaving.  

Biblical reasons for leaving a local church would include death, being providentially moved out of the area, being called into a ministry that would require your departure, the church makes major doctrinal changes that clearly goes against the sound teaching of the Word of God, and other like reason could be listed.

Un-biblical reasons for leaving a church would include hurt feelings, not getting your way about a matter, desire for something bigger and better to appeal to your flesh, unreconciled relationships, looking for a place where there will be no demands upon your life, looking for a place that no one will hold you accountable, and other like reasons.

If you possess an attitude towards your church that is more negative than positive then it is time to repent and develop a new attitude.  Confess your issues to God and confess the wrongs that you have toward your church, your leadership, or towards your other brothers and sisters.  Ask for God's forgiveness over your sin and for strength to reconcile any broken relationships that you have.  Secondly, look for ways to humbly serve your church for the glory of God and for your good.  Lead out in prayer, door to door witnessing, assisting in property maintenance, and find creative ways to show your commitment to the local church where you currently hold membership.  Ask God to grant you a great love for your church and that by the Holy Spirit you will be empowered to serve your Lord in the local church that you call home. 

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