Trail Tip #3 - Travel in a Pack

Day 3 of 10
Continuing right along with our trail tips for walking well with Jesus on the ancient paths blazed by His Word,  we come to a really fun tip. As I often say, "The trail may be narrow and few may be on it, but, sister, you don't have to do this thing alone!" 

Tip #3 - Join a Local Church
I'm not just suggesting that you go to church. Going to church is for novices. I suggest you join a local body of believers, really plug in and become a part of the family.

I'm a little disheartened by a current trend I see developing. I've noticed more and more people approaching church with a consumer mentality. They dabble in a church about the same way they shop at a grocery store or frequent a vacation spot. As long as there's something appealing to them about that particular church (or grocery store or vacation spot) they continue to "shop" there, but as soon as something more appealing comes along at another church (or grocery store or vacation spot) they split and move on. Or sometimes I've noticed people going to one church for a worship service, another for a Bible study, another for a children's program, and still another for an exercise class.

Now I'm not suggesting we can't ever cross the brick borders of our churches. I've participated in aerobics programs at other churches, enjoyed an occasional worship service with a sister church, or attended ladies events at a neighboring church. My son attended a youth group at a Korean church in town for a while because so many of his friends invited him, but he also stayed committed to our church's youth program, which met on a different night of the week. 

I'm all for building the community of Christ with no boundaries between congregations. I'm for cooperation and sharing and joining forces and all those good things. But I also find a scriptural basis for plugging in completely to a local church body that becomes family to you. And when you join a family, you join a family. You stay committed, work through things together, take the bad with the good, become part of the solution rather than pointing out the problem, and defend what is good and honorable and worthy of investment. 

You care about the people in the family, too. You get to know them, share your life with them, help meet their needs, and make your own needs known to them so they have the opportunity to serve you. 

If you'd like a good look at a New Testament church that generally operated in a way that honored God, promoted the gospel, and edified its "members", read through the short book of Philippians. Here was a church that was founded on the true gospel of Jesus Christ, sent out missionaries, supported other churches with finances and prayers, preached the good news, celebrated together as a family, and shared in one another's sorrows and joys. Still, Paul had to remind them to "be nice" and act like family when personalities clashed (Philippians 4:1-3). But that's exactly my point. He didn't suggest they move on and find another church. He suggested they treat each other with brotherly (or sisterly) love.

Here are a few additional tips about plugging into a local body of believers:
  1. Choose carefully a church that preaches the gospel and Jesus crucified, buried, risen, ascended and returning.
  2. Get to know your pastor. Take the initiative and he should be thrilled to get to know you. You are accepting him as a spiritual authority over you, so make sure he is someone you can respect, he is available to you personally, and he is on solid ground theologically.
  3. Make a commitment to your church. Even if your church doesn't require or recognize membership, make a personal commitment to consistent attendance, financial support, ministerial participation, and verbal backing of your church. 
  4. Find a ministry. A true new testament church will equip you as a believer to minister in, through, and from the church. Find a place of service and serve with gladness, enthusiasm, investment, and creativity.
  5. Speak well of your church, every chance you get. Remember, this is your family of God, the body of believers you have chosen to associate yourself with through commitment. Speak well of your church's leadership, facilities, ministries, etc. out in the community. 
  6. Build connections. Take responsibility for developing relationships with others in your church. You can't do that by sneaking in five minutes after services begin and exiting quickly when they end. Stick around, mingle, introduce yourself, join a small group, hang around the coffee station, volunteer for service, and be friendly.
How has being a committed part of a church family benefited you? I'd love to know!

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