Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In their book, A Heart Like His, Mike and Amy Nappa present a list of hypothetical reasons why a person stopped going to ball games. While these reasons seem extreme, they sound too familiar to excuses given today for not attending church. Here are the twelve reasons given regarding why he stopped going to ball games: When-ever I go to a game, they ask for money. . . . The other fans don’t care for me. . . . The seats are too hard. . . . Coach never visits me. . . . The referee makes calls I don’t agree with. . . . Some of the games go into overtime and make me late for dinner. . . . The band plays songs I don’t know. . . . I have other things to do at game time. . . . My parents took me to too many games when I was growing up. . . . I know more than the coaches do anyway. . . . I can be just as good a fan at the lake. . . . I won’t take my kids to a game either. They must choose for themselves which teams to follow (Barbour, 1999; pp. 182-183). I’m sure you get the point. While the typical sports fan would not use these excuses for avoiding sporting events, many professing believers use these very excuses for avoiding church attendance.
In my recent preaching series on “Confronting Complacency,” I addressed the question, “How Identified Are You With the Church?” We must first distinguish between the universal Church (Matt. 16:18; Col. 1:18) and the local church (Acts 2:42, 47; 8:1; 9:31; 12:1; 13:1; 14:23). While every true believer is a member of the Universal Church (composed of all born again believers in Christ since the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2), not every believer is a member of a local church. Many don’t see the need to be involved in a local church. They rarely, if ever, attend church services. Others attend church services periodically, but they never commit themselves to a particular local church. This is not the pattern that we see in the New Testament. In the early Church, when a person became a believer in the Lord Jesus as his Savior, he soon banded together with fellow-believers, recognizing the need for fellowship with believers. He became identified with a body of believers. Such should be the case with every believer today. This identification will be displayed in commitment, specifically in three areas: where the church is going, on what the church is grounded, and how the church is growing.
In my message on this topic, I addressed the direction of the church—where the church is going. We as believers must be committed to where the church is going. The mission statement of Blue River, which defines the direction of our church, is to make disciples of Jesus Christ who actively praise God in worship, practice godliness in character, promote growth in believers, and proclaim the gospel to unbelievers. As a church, we focus on relationships—our relationship with God, with believers, and with unbelievers. Second, we examined the doctrine of the church—that on which the church is grounded. The early Church was grounded on the teaching of the apostles (Acts 2:42), and the local church must be grounded on the truth of the Word. All that we do revolves around sound doctrine, having a firm commitment to it (I Tim. 4:6; II Tim. 3:10), a faithful communication of it (I Tim. 5:17; Tit. 1:9), and a godly conduct in accordance with it (I Tim. 1:10; 6:1, 3). Finally, we looked at the development of the church—how the church is growing. We saw six marks of the development of the early Church: faithful teaching (Acts 2:42a), regular fellowship (Acts 2:42b, 46), consistent remembrance (Acts 2:42c), corporate prayer (Acts 2:42d), reverential fear (Acts 2:43), generous sharing (Acts 2:44-45), genuine praise (Acts 2:47a), and daily growth (Acts 2:47b). Just as with the early Church, our church is committed to the proper direction, to sound doctrine, and to steady development.
Many of those who are reading this letter have in one way or another identified with Blue River. Do you as a believer identify with the direction, doctrine, and development of our church? How is this identification demonstrated?
Are you committed to regularly attending the services of the church? Or is your attendance sporadic at best?
Are you committed to developing relationships with believers in the church? How many do you know well and encourage?
Are you committed to faithful involvement in at least one ministry of the church? How are you using your spiritual gift?
Are you committed to sacrificial giving to the church, both to our local ministry and to our worldwide missions outreach?
Are you committed to reaching out to the lost, seeking to win them to Christ and help them grow spiritually?
Are you committed to consistent prayer for the church and to corporate prayer with other believers in the church?
Are you committed to making disciples within the church, selecting those who you can help toward spiritual maturity?
What are specific ways that you need to strengthen your identification with Blue River Bible Church?
Because of His Grace—Pastor Charlie