If you have been part of Marg church gatherings, you must have heard the term ‘the local church‘ zap past you in at least a few discussions. If you are like me, you must have wondered – “whuhh, I wonder why do they say ‘local church’ and not just ‘church’?”.
How does it even matter?
There are two ways of defining anything:
Way #1 – How God defines it.
Way #2 – How everyone else defines it.
This is true for the local church too.
My precious brothers and sisters at Marg, other Christians and friends from other faiths could ask you why do you place such importance to your local church community.
You might have an answer ready, but is your response based from the Bible? If it is not, why should any Christ-follower trust what you have to say?
Sheetal, then my wife of one month, looked at me. Her large, beautiful eyes were filled with disbelief. Neither of us could believe she had conceived – while she had been on birth-control pills. Two positive pregnancy tests in a row had blown away any bits of doubt, like a gust of wind blows paper bits off the road.
For many couples, conception is thrilling, but sadly it was not so for us. I was yet to earn a stable income in my freelance work. She was not yet working. We had planned to not try to have children until two years into marriage so that we could build a stable family life.
Obviously God had considered our plans. Then He had trashed them with no warning.
The Spirit-led man of God.
The untiring woman of God.
John the Baptist exposing the Pharisees. Lydia serving the first church. Paul planting churches at a rate that would boggle any start-up expert.
Men and women of God (not always pastors), even today, love God’s Word and obey Him fervently. In my experience, they have helped me and many others discern half-truths and outright errors taught in the name of Christianity. I am thankful for them, deeply so!
Who wouldn’t love to be a true man of God? God uses people with zeal for Him to establish the local church (Matt 16:17-18, Matt 28:18-20). Marg churches desperately need men and women of God: people who boldly teach the truth in love, who proclaim and defend the gospel of Jesus.
Last week we saw the problem with being the life of a Marg party.
But when does becoming a man of God become a problem before God?
1. Men of God could become obsessed by the Bible, not by its purpose. In a sad irony, men and women are found just poring over the Bible, commentaries and taking study notes but hardly involved in the mission of Jesus. The often quoted “I am a child of God” has become tainted with selfish examples of individualistic living across churches that I have seen. And I have, too, many a time, joined these “sofa-soldiers”. We do no good by only building ourselves up, and neglecting to make disciples. Jesus’ example was vastly different.
2. Men of God can have little compassion. They do an excellent job of pointing out sin. But a mistaken imagination of John the Baptist and Elijah convince some to speak in anger- because they have something more special going on with God than everybody else in town. They decide to take leave from “love is patient and kind”. Is it wrong to point out sin? Never. But can you and I be as gracious as God the Father in our daily behaviour toward others? Any time.
3. Preach and blog, but neglect the family of God? The often quoted “I am a child of God” has become tainted with examples of selfish, individualistic living across churches today. Fueled by the questionable Sunday-model of “church”, many think they are done serving God’s people because they attended 3+2 hours of church service every week.
The child of God usually becomes an immature man of God when he neglects to spend his love on and time with the family of God.
Instead of others’ burdens bothering me (Gal 6:1-2), I get caught up with spending that time with God, or in my own selfish pursuits. Have I chosen movies over silent cries of need WITHIN my church community?
Have I chosen reading biographies over cooking at a community gathering? Or is that just the ladies’ duty?
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” – John 13:34,35.
I have seen people lose respect for Biblical advice I have given, mostly because they didn’t see me build real relationships with them.
No man of God can grow if he identifies himself solely as a child of God. No one’s designed to comprehend the depths of God outside the community of the local church (Eph 3:17-19).
What have your failings been as a man or woman of God?
Hanging out has been a big blessing to me. Experiences others have shared with me during such times have been life-altering. I also got exposed to stories my friends would not have shared with me otherwise. (I would have learnt more about my friends, alas – I speak a lot more than I listen!)
Living as a community is a lovely thing. In many ways, God wants this to happen. After all, Jesus and his disciples and the first church were known for living community-oriented lives, all for honouring God and for benefitting others (Matt 22:37, Acts 2:42-47).
As Christians today, I hope we at Marg want to influence our friends and colleagues with the one thing that will change them forever – the incredible news of Jesus. Here is where Christians who are the life of the party come in. They often go to great lengths to invite friends over. They go out of their way, make new friends comfortable. From such “life of the party” folks, we stand much to gain from and to learn.