Consider your attitude to the local church

Consider your attitude to the local church

All of us have different experiences of church. We can get frustrated with other people or tired from our service. We can feel as if no-one speaks to us or overwhelmed that there are too many people to speak to. We can notice all the problems with our local church on some days and rejoice at God’s goodness to our local church on others. As many people consider the big issues in their lives during January, make sure you are thinking rightly about church this year.

Do you love Jesus, but not the church? It’s a popular view. It sounds so logical and modern and enlightened. After all, most of us have had poor experiences with the local church at some stage in our lives. The problem is that the local church is central to God’s work in the world. When people came to know Jesus in Acts, they immediately started meeting together. When Paul spends three chapters in Ephesians 1-3 explaining what Jesus has accomplished for believers, he emphasizes that we are united together (Eph 1:10, 22-23, 2:19-22). So many instructions for Christians make no sense if done by ourselves (such as to “be completely humble and gentle”, Eph 4:2). There are many commands for Christians to do things to one another (love, bear with etc). If you are a Christian, you should be active in a local church, despite the challenges and difficulties that come with that.

Are you disappointed with the other people at church? If not, you will be! Local churches are made up of sinners. There are those whose lifestyles do not match your standards. You will see obvious sin and hypocrisy in the lives of others. Yet, as has been often said, church is a hospital for sinners rather than a museum for saints. We are all sinner with deep problems. We need Jesus, we need the Spirit to change us over time, and we need the help of other imperfect believers as we get there.

In our assessment of other believers, we are usually failing to see our own sin. We don’t want to become judgmental and only picking on the problems we see in the lives of others. Think about how Jesus viewed sinners. He ate with them and called them to follow Him. Let’s see others, with all their faults, with grace.

Are you feeling overwhelmed by your service at church? Some people are activists and always seem to be serving. Others are part of a small church and are constantly opening the building, welcoming, and setting up chairs. All of us get tired sometimes and hope others will notice what we do. If that’s the case, step back and consider why any of us serve others at church. We do it out of love for Jesus and what He has done for us. If we start to expect praise for our work or some kind of higher status, we have shifted our focus completely. Serve with joy. If no-one notices your service, that is perfectly fine; you do it for God.

If you are serving for the right reasons, yet you feel that more people should be serving, don’t just complain about this. Speak to the church leaders. Start a training programme to get more people involved. We want to turn the frustration into something useful not something destructive to us and to other people.

Do you feel like the local church is not doing as much for you as you’d like it to? There are two possibilities here. One is that we might be thinking too much like a consumer. Church is not all about what we personally prefer. The music might not be to our taste, we might not have picked these particular people to be in it, and the preacher’s style might not be our ideal type. Don’t measure the church on your personal tastes. Ask the more fundamental questions: is this church faithfully teaching God’s word? Are people serving God and one another? Is this church concerned with the lost and building up God’s people? Are the leaders faithful and the sacraments presented well? If so, you can live with some of your personal preferences not being met.

There is a second possibility. If you are not being fed from God’s word in your church, you should speak up about this or find a church that does. Do not ever do this lightly. But some churches don’t teach faithfully or help you grow in knowing God’s word. This is one of a very few reasons to leave a church; if that’s you, ask trusted friends what they think prior to leaving.

Do you feel like church is shallow and not a significant part of your life? It is easy to just turn up at a service and leave. If that’s all you do, it is almost impossible to meet people. Church cannot help but be a bit consumeristic if you never get deeply involved. Make this the year that things are different and deeper. Come to church services early and stay for longer, intentionally meeting new people. Sign up to serve in some way. Join a smaller group. To a large degree, you get out of church what you put into it. Church is where you serve; as you do this, you will also be served.

The local church is a great blessing in many ways. Let’s serve God and one another with joy in our local churches this year.