Ever heard something like that? Or “I don’t need to be in a church building to worship God.” Or, “I have moved away from organized religion, there are so many hypocrites.” “I spend time with God on my own.”
How many times have you heard these excuses for not being part of a local church body? Now please don’t misunderstand me. Can we worship God in the outdoors? Absolutely – I find it hard NOT to worship God when I enjoy His magnificent creation. Do we need to be in a church building to worship God? Absolutely not—if that were the case we would only be worshipers on Sunday. Should we spend time with God on our own? Absolutely – after all, our saving relationship with Jesus Christ is personal.
But I’m not talking about those things. I am talking about people that have made a conscious decision or a decision by default to not be a part of a local congregation of believers on a regular basis. I am not being legalistic here – you don’t get extra brownie points for being in Sunday worship and if you miss a Sunday (with a proper heart attitude) you don’t get a demerit.
As I have mentioned before I am doing a year-long study of Joshua in preparation for Keswick’s Fall Ladies Weekend in October (come join us). In my preparation I am reading Deuteronomy with fresh eyes. In Chapter 12, God is very specific that He was setting up His dwelling place for them to gather. He clearly said they were not to just go where they wanted to go.
“But you shall seek the place where the LORD your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go.”… “You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes— … But when you cross over the Jordan and dwell in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you dwell in safety, then there will be the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide. There you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, and all your choice offerings which you vow to the LORD. …Take heed to yourself that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every place that you see; but in the place which the LORD chooses, in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you.” Deuteronomy 12:5; 12:8; 12:10-11; 12:13-14
This Victory Call is not about WHERE you should participate in a local church but THAT you should participate in a local, Bible-believing, Bible-preaching congregation. That is where God has chosen for us to worship corporately. It is HIS church. Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church.
You may be thinking: “That is Old Testament, it doesn’t apply today.”
Well, as is common, you will find Old Testament principles all through the New Testament. So don’t assume that if it is in the Old Testament it doesn’t apply today. God warns us in Hebrews…
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25
The church is not the building, it is a living, dynamic body of Christ-followers of which Jesus Christ is the head.
If you have fallen away from active church participation let me encourage you to fight the temptation to keep doing what you are doing – that is the easy thing to do. I invite you to stop doing what’s easy and comfortable and plain old habit and do the hard thing – start going to a local church that preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ.
It may be hard at first until you form the new habit of worshipping with a local congregation of believers but God will honor your obedience. Step out, step up and go.
You are loved.
Diane Hunt served for 16 years on the staff of America’s Keswick until recently when she and her husband relocated to North Carolina. She now continues serving as a contributing writer and Partner Care consultant. Diane is also a biblical counselor, speaker, teacher, and author. She delights in the opportunities she has as a women’s conference and retreat speaker to share from God’s word. Many of her illustrations are drawn from her relational experiences as a wife, mother, and mema. They are the very relationships that bring her the greatest joy and the most fun!