In the last blog entry I talked a little about why I decided to get involved in a local church again after leaving church altogether. This entry finishes explaining why I went back.
The answer to my second question, “Why do I even need the church?”, started coming during a study of spiritual gifts of all things! I started reading what Paul wrote about the gifts and the functioning of the church, which he calls the body in 1 Corinthians 12. There, Paul talks about how foolish an eye would be to tell a foot that the eye didn't need it, how silly it would be for an ear to reject an eye, etc. In other words, all Christians need all other Christians because we have not been gifted by the Spirit in such a way that is sufficient for us to operate alone. The Spirit calls different believers to different tasks, gifting them differently, but together we function as a complete whole.
Of course that didn't mean that I would magically find every believer doing his job and exercising his gifts rightly in every -- or maybe any! -- church I joined over the rest of my life, but that didn't matter. An eye with surgically repairable cataracts is better than no eye at all, and a sprained foot is better than no foot at all! And there was no reason that the eye has to keep its cataracts or the foot has to stay sprained because the Healer Himself is in our midst! Maybe I will even be used in the healing! What became clear, though, is that I cannot function alone. I might have great "eyesight" spiritually, but just because I decide to go it alone does not mean the Spirit will choose to give me great spiritual "hearing," "taste buds," or "walking speed" just because I decide I don't want the help of the rest of the body of Christ. I was setting myself up for miserable failure spiritually. Would I be humble enough to accept imperfect eyes and feet, or would I decide in my pride that I was better off as a blind amputee before the Lord because at least it would be just Him and me?
I think there are many other avenues through which to address why we should be involved in a local church, but I just wanted to share with you how God brought me to that conclusion. I don't ever want to downplay the frustration, disappointment, or deep pain that can come from committing to being involved with a local church. As a former pastor's kid, a lay leader in several churches, and now a pastor myself I freely confess that most of my hurts and wounds have come from my fellow Christians. But I am convinced that God intends me to live the Christian life within the church, that in fact I am utterly unequipped and unable to do otherwise. Because for all the hurt the church has caused me, the church has blessed me greatly. I would not be who I am today without the influence, love, and support of the many Christians God has placed alongside me in the churches I have been a part of.
I still encounter flawed and fractured Christians, but I am flawed and fractured myself. And whether I like it or not, one of the main ways God intends to work out my flaws and fractures is through rubbing up against other flawed and fractured Christians. The opposite is also true. So, I'm committed to local church involvement because I am committed to the Savior who loves the church, loves me, and placed me in the church as a demonstration of that love.