I had just graduated from college and landed a writing job with a mission organization working in Brazil. A dream come true! After a month of training in the US, I was ready to go… but God had other plans. I spent the next six months living with my parents in a town where I knew literally no one while waiting for my work visa that would allow my entry into Brazil. Just two months into my wait, I wrote a confessional email to some friends who had pledged to pray for me on my two year journey. Here’s an excerpt from that email:
I haven't really wanted to tell you guys what's going on inside my heart. But, through talking until the wee hours of this morning with *one way cool friend* who came to visit, some things really came into the light and I feel renewed. I think it would be much easier not to let you guys know what's going on with me, but then you wouldn't know how to pray for me specifically, and that's really what I need from you all. I have just had a harder time than even I thought with this whole "waiting time"-- it was never entered on my agenda and has really taken me off guard. Therefore, through not really feeling like I belong at college, where I used to blossom, and not really having much to do at home... I've just kinda sunk beneath the cracks a little. I think most of all I miss the fellowship of believers I've had surrounding me and keeping me accountable for the past four years. Since my family moved here to Fort Mill while I was in college I don't really know many people here my age and I don't really have a church body in which I'm actively involved. All this has really compiled and, man, the enemy has really been having some fun. It's like the pastor at my parents' church was saying today how the devil just wants to isolate you and cut you off from everything-- and that's pretty much how I've been feeling.
I needed connection to other believers. I needed other believers around me to hold a mirror up to me so that I could see the truth about my situation and my own sin. I needed their encouragement and accountability. I needed their prayers during this time of uncertainty. I needed the Church.
When you read the word “church,” you might think about a building, but the Church is not a building. The Bible teaches that the Church is the body of Christ. The Church is people who have place their faith in Jesus Christ.
Dr. David Platt explained in his sermon, “A Radical Redefinition of the Church- Part 2,” that the Bible talks about the church “… on two levels: A universal level including all believers of all times, and a local level including a local body of believers in a certain place.” His definition of the local church based on Ephesians 4:1-16 is: “A local body of baptized believers joined together under biblical leadership to grow in the likeness of Christ and express the love of Christ to each other and to the world around them.”
I need that. I need the Church. So do you if you’re a believer in Jesus.
Platt went on to say, “I have had people say to me, something maybe you have heard someone say before, “You know, Dave, I love Jesus, I just don’t like the church.” Have you ever heard that? I won’t ask who has thought it or who has said it. “I love Jesus, but I just don’t like the church.” Now, let’s unpack that statement for just a second. The Bible talks about how the church is the Bride of Christ, right? What would you think if I came up to you and said, “Dude, I like you; I like you a lot, but I can’t stand your wife.” Would that offend you? The Bible talks about how the church is the body of Christ, right? What if Heather, my wife, came up to me and said, “Dave, I love you, but I just can’t stand your body.” Is that a good thing for a wife to say to a husband? No, it is not a good thing for a wife to say to a husband at all. Would I be honored with that statement? Ladies and gentlemen, we are kidding ourselves, and our Christianity is less than biblical if we pretend to love Christ and ignore the church. We have missed the whole point. The thing is, somewhere along the way, we get the idea that that is a sign of maturity. It is a sign of immaturity to try to love Christ apart from His bride, apart from His body. What Scripture is teaching us is that the local church is extremely important.”
John Piper said, “To belong to Christ is to belong to a body of believers… The more disconnected we are from a local church, the more confused we will be about who we are– who God made us to be. We find our true individual selves in relationship to others.”
There are so many Biblical reasons as to why we need to be connected to a local body of believers, but one that rings true for me in this season is that I can share the gifts and talents that God has given me. It makes me come alive and hopefully allows others to see God through me. The thing that still blows me away is that this is how God made us! He made us for connection. He made us each with special gifts and talents. He puts us together in his Body, the Church, so that we can come alive using those gifts and talents to glorify Him while helping each other grow more like Jesus. I think this is what Switchfoot and Tenth Avenue North are singing about… Being in community and selflessly loving others is hard but so worth it because that’s what we were made for.
Should I Commit to One Church? (Five minute podcast)
When Should I Leave My Church? (five minute podcast)