I’ve given this question a lot of thought lately. I wanted to share my heart about why I believe its vital for us to submit ourselves to a local church body and covenant together with that church for pursuing God’s aims in the world. Here are my thoughts:
- I believe the church is God’s plan A for accomplishing his purposes. There are important ministries not part of a particular church. Banner Christian School that meets at the Bethany Place church facility is one such ministry I value that God uses greatly. I am deeply grateful for such ministries and encourage partnering with them. However, my sense from scripture is that the primary means for the overall spiritual well being of God’s people comes through his church.
- Many descriptions of the Christian life involve the way it works in community. For instance the text I will use Sunday includes the command to, “keep loving one another earnestly.” Who are the “one another” if not fellow members of a local church. This was especially so in the first century when the culture was largely hostile to Christianity. Such hostility is becoming increasingly obvious in our society. The practical environment where such commands are worked out is the home and the church.
- Not committing ourselves to a local church may mask inconsistencies in our walk with Christ. There wouldn’t be so many commands to love each other if that weren’t going to be a challenge. God calls us to work these things out with people we know and serve with other time. If we aren’t strongly plugged in to a local church body or if we frequently move from church to church, we may make it easier to blame challenges on the church or other people and not address our own sin when things don’t go well.
- Every person needs a pastor or pastors (elders) and other spiritual leaders to speak into their lives. No one ever outgrows the need for this. It’s possible to listen to some of the best communicators in the world for free through their podcasts and should, but we all need the accountability that comes from a local church.
- The bible contains serious challenges to pastors and spiritual leaders to care for God’s people. (See for example 1 Peter 5:1-3, Ezekiel 34, and Acts 20:28-31). I take this very seriously. How are we supposed to determine who is in our care? Regardless of whether or not you are a member of Bethany Place, if you attend here regularly I consider you part of those for whom God will hold me accountable. Still there is some ambiguity there which membership makes clear.
- Church’s can’t function well without people willing to commit to that body. Membership says, “I’m in. I’m willing to be identified with this church and I’m committed to serving God with my time, talents and resources through this church family.
This Sunday at Bethany Place I will be continuing our vision series with a message titled The Surprising Solution to a Tough Challenge from 1 Peter 4:7-11. You can see the text, outline and discussion questions for this message below.
The Surprising Solution to a Tough Challenge
1 Peter 4:7–11 (ESV) 7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 4:7–11 (ESV) 7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.
8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
Welcome weird people
9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
Serve in God’s strength
10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Questions for further thought and discussion
- How does it change your intensity toward a task when you know you don’t have much time to do it? Would it change your focus if you were consciously thinking that Jesus could return today and your time to do anything you believed important would end?
- How do self-control and sober mindedness help with praying?
- Why are there so many different commands in scripture to love one another earnestly? Why does Peter say, “above all?” What does Peter mean when he says love covers a multitude of sins? Looking up Proverbs 19:11 may help.
- What does it mean to “show hospitality?” Why does Peter need to say to do this without “grumbling?”
- What can you do practically to ensure that you are serving with the strength God supplies as opposed to only in your own strength?
- Do you think greater obedience to this text would affect our attractiveness to new people as a church body? If so, why?