Above All

I have a love-hate relationship with relationships.

I love them when they’re going well, but I hate them when they’re going poorly. I love them when they are well-established and comfortable, but I hate them when they are new and awkward. I love them when they fulfill me and make me happy, but I hate them when they hurt me and leave me empty.

You, too?

Fortunately/Unfortunately, people are made for relationships…with each other and with God. Even us more introverted folks are made for relationships, and we cannot be well emotionally without participating in a few.

God knows this, which is why He “sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6) and makes relationships the fabric of His Church.

As much as I wish it was the case sometimes, relationships are not optional. 

And given that relationships between two people are always relationships between two broken relaters, we’re going to find ourselves in relationships that are hard and messy and make us want to quit and move to the beach alone forever and ever, amen, far more often than we’d like.

Which is probably why the subtitle of the New Testament letters could be “How to Get Along with People in Ways that Make God Happy.”

Every one of Paul’s and Peter’s letters is brimming with instructions on how Christians are to relate to themselves, non-Christians, other Christians, and God, in a variety of different circumstances.

I’m not excited to report that I am currently in the middle of a great friendship that is going through a very not great rough patch. As I prayed about the situation this morning, I didn’t get any direction from God on what needs to occur next in this relationship. So I opened my Bible to read it in preparation for a Sunday School lesson my teacher would be leading me in a couple hours later.

We’ve been going through the whole book of 1 Peter, and it “just so happened” that we were going to be on chapter 4 today. And it “just so happened” that this morning I couldn’t remember which portion of chapter 4 we’d be learning about, so I decided to go ahead and read the whole thing.

In the letter Peter is encouraging believers who are experiencing severe persecution to live godly lives in the midst of their suffering. And in verse 8 Peter writes, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

My eyes stopped and re-read that verse three or four times.

I pretended to not know how this instruction I “just so happened” to read had anything to do with my prayer for direction in a difficult friendship I had literally prayed 1 minute and 28 seconds prior to reading this verse.

I put on my best pensive face and said, “Lord, what do you mean? How does this verse apply to me right now?”

He didn’t even dignify those questions with a response.

I went to church and successfully avoided thinking about the verse 98% of the morning. But this afternoon I started praying about my struggling relationship again, and the verse popped right back in my mind. So I grit my teeth a little and said, “Ok, Lord, let’s look at this again.”

I opened my Bible and started reading 1 Peter 4 again. But this time verse 7 stood out to me in addition to verse 8. Verse 7 reads, “The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.”

I paused.

I had never considered that when we are not clear-minded and are out of control that we really can’t pray. But I think it’s true.

I was just telling the Lord prior to reading this verse that my friend and I are both out of control. We’re both very passionate people who have big emotions that can cloud our minds and blow our judgment out of the water.

And when I am in that kind of heightened emotional state, my prayers are hindered. I still pray…but my prayers are not usually efforts to understand what God is doing so much as they are efforts to tell God I want things to go differently than they are going.

And pushing my agenda on God is not an effective way to pray. Mostly because I am a moron who can’t discern a “good” plan from a “bad” one, meaning my agendas are usually not what’s best for me or anyone around me.

I need the Spirit to override the stupidity that comes with being fallen and to lead me into truth…the truth about what’s best for me and for others. That’s the purpose of prayer: to allow the Spirit to align my heart with God’s heart. And I just can’t go to God in prayer with a level-headed aim like that when I am not clear-minded and self-controlled.

I prayed verse 7 for my friend and me, and then I went on to verse 8.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

Above all.

Above all.

Loving each other deeply is more important than being clear-minded and more important than being self-controlled.

Hmm.

On the one hand, that sounds like good news for those of us who struggle with being clear-minded and self-controlled in the heat of emotions. If we can’t master those two things, maybe we can put all our energy into this most important thing and still come out all right…

But it’s really hard to love other fallen humans deeply without first having gained God’s heart for them through prayer. 

That Peter.

He’s not giving me a pass on the clear-mindedness and self-control. He’s not saying loving each other deeply trumps having clear-mindedness and self-control, so don’t worry about those last two.

He’s saying we have to be clear-minded and self-controlled so we can be strengthened by the Spirit through prayer to love each other deeply, the most important thing of all in relationships. 

Why?

Because love covers over a multitude of sins.

When we love each other deeply, we will still sin against one another. We will still blow it. We will still hurt each other. And when that happens, those things will still need to be addressed. But our deep love for one another will enable us to forgive quicker and get on with the business of loving one another all the more.

And when a watching world sees Christians who live this out–even and especially when we love/forgive/love over and over and over again–they see a picture of Christ. They see a picture of grace and mercy and redemption and unconditional love.

And isn’t that what we’re supposed to be known for?

Didn’t Jesus say, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” (John 13:34-35)?

Loving is hard. Relationships are hard. I have yet to ever be in any relationship of any value that didn’t have its rough patches…but when both parties commit to persevering through the hard times, both parties become better and better at loving one another deeply, above all.

What to Do When You Go through a Trial

Hi. My name is Kelly. I used to write here. Often. And I used to love it. And some of you enjoyed it, too. But in January, 2015, I started working on my master’s and all but totally stopped writing here. And I missed it. A lot. And some of you missed it, too. Fast forward 3 years, and my degree is complete. I had a lot of fun. I learned a lot of things. But now I don’t know what to do with myself. So here is me shaking off the dust and seeing if I remember how to write…

Yesterday, I sat down and read through the whole book of 1 Peter to get the bird’s eye view of the thing before we start dissecting it next week in the Sunday School class I attend. As I read through the first chapter, a sermon started welling up in me down around verse 7. It seemed particularly fitting for a friend of mine grieving a death in the family, so I tapped my thoughts out with my thumbs and sent them as a text message. Today, I sat down and turned that sermon/text into a post here.

(I don’t know why I think you care about all that back story, but I’m just going to go with it serves as a “practical application” of what follows. My preaching professors would not be happy with the application coming before the explanation, so it looks like those three years away were for naught. Oh well.)

Now then, in Peter’s first letter to early Jewish Christians, his primary goal was to encourage them to live godly lives as they endured terrible persecution for being Christians. This was back in the time of Nero, that Roman emperor who outlawed Christianity and thought it fun to light Christians on fire in order to illuminate his palace gardens at night. Most of the references Peter makes to suffering, then, are on par with levels of persecution we contemporary westerners know nothing about.

However, in 1 Peter 1:6, Peter expands his thoughts to include “all kinds of trials that produce grief.” And that is something you and I can relate to. The next verse reads, “[All kinds of trials that produce grief] have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed,” (1 Peter 1:7).

Trials produce grief for two purposes.

First, trials that produce grief have come so that your faith in God is proven genuine both to yourself and to those around you. It is when you are in the midst of trials that you and others will see whether or not you really trust God’s decisions to allow/cause your trials and whether or not you have faith in Him to perfectly handle the results/consequences of your trials. As you trust Him in the middle of trials, other believers will be encouraged to do the same, and unbelievers will see Jesus in you. Your attitude will pique their curiosity in Jesus.

Second, trials that produce grief have come so that praise, glory, and honor will be the results when Jesus Christ is revealed.

This may be Peter’s way of saying YOU–the under-goers of the trials–will receive praise, glory, and honor from Jesus when He returns. In other words, Jesus will give you an, “Atta boy!” or “Atta girl!” for persevering and handling trials faithfully.

An alternate take on this part of the verse is that Jesus will get praise, honor, and glory when He returns as a result of your handling trials well. Why? Because the lost will get saved when they observe believers going through trials with unwavering faith. You are experiencing these specific trials of grief so lost people can see how you handle things with the power of Christ, and then the Spirit will draw them unto salvation. Maybe not today. But at some point before Christ returns, and, as a result, there will be even more people worshiping Christ when He returns than there would’ve been if these trials had never happened to you.

No matter which interpretation is correct (perhaps they both are), it is important for you to remember this: you don’t save people. God saves people.

So while you are undergoing “all kinds of trials that produce grief,” just focus on walking with Him. Receive comfort from Him. Dialogue with Him. Tell others what He is teaching you. Describe to others what the Bible says about trials (which necessarily requires you to learn what the Bible says about trials…).

Make it your goal to stay close to Jesus in your grief-inducing trials, and your faith will be evident to others. 

Grief and Joy

I’ve been mulling over an oxymoron the last 24 hours or so.

At church yesterday, somebody (Keith Thomas – give props where props are due) brought up the idea that, as Christians, we can have hope and joy in the midst of grievous situations.

We can trust Christ is at work – doing His best work, in fact – and the hope we have in Christ will not disappoint us, according to Romans 5:5. The person discussing this issue said, “We can experience the depths of grief and the heights of joy at the same time.”

It was an interesting concept… He used an example of a mother losing her teenager whom she knew was a believer. Deep grief, yet tremendous joy…

To be honest, the idea didn’t really take hold of me emotionally the first time I heard it. Sure, I agreed with it, but it remained in the philosophical compartment of my brain for the next hour.

Then I went to service, and as the Lord is wont to do from time to time, He put His finger on a part of my heart I’d been trying to pretend wasn’t hurting and communicated, sans words, “You are experiencing deep grief and tremendous joy simultaneously right now.”

He was right.

I’d been trying for so long to convince myself I was only experiencing the joy Jesus was offering in my situation, subconsciously believing that if I never admitted to myself that I was also extremely sad, then I wouldn’t be. I’d be able to keep the feelings of grief at bay.

Except I couldn’t anymore.

Things came to a head, and I – superior emotional wall-builder that I am – couldn’t keep the bricks in place any longer. The wall fell, and I felt firsthand the truth I’d been exposed to earlier that morning… we can experience the depths of grief and the heights of joy at the same time…

I scribbled something down on Twitter so I wouldn’t forget it…

Grief and Joy

From experience, I think this is a true equation. Prior to my becoming a believer in Jesus, I was hopeless in times of grief. After I became a believer, I was hopeless in times of grief when I neglected to focus on Christ. But those rare moments, like yesterday, when I’ve considered Jesus’ faithfulness and goodness in the midst of my grief, I’ve found hope and joy.

But, to be honest, it doesn’t matter at all if I think this equation is true. My feelings and experiences don’t make something true. Truth is defined in the Bible, and our experiences only serve to confirm truth. But that’s another post.

My point is, I don’t want to post this idea without biblical proof. And Peter gives it to us.

In 1 Peter 1:6, Peter writes to believers, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”

Joy during suffering and grief…

How? What are they rejoicing in while they suffer so greatly?

If we back up to verses 3-5, Peter tells us.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

Verse 6 begins, “In all this…” That is, the believers are rejoicing in the 4 things (at least) I highlighted in verses 3-5 while they “suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”

So, it can be done…

You, me.

We can experience the depths of grief and the heights of joy at the same time… if we keep Christ in the center of our suffering. 

 

The Best Approach to Apologetics

Before I became a Christian, I realized something pretty quickly about the teenagers in my public high school who believed in God: they had no idea why they believed what they believed. They couldn’t give me much of a reason to trust their belief system over mine.

As an atheist I was skeptical at best and antagonistic at worst of any belief in a God I could not see nor “prove”, properly. I had no more reason to base my spiritual beliefs on the Bible than on The Catcher in the Rye (which spoke to me on so many levels). And the kids I “debated” religion with in school couldn’t give me a reason to trust the Bible. The “best” case I got for believing in God from my classmates was, “Just believe in God just in case!” That guy no longer identifies himself as a Christian.

Well, as He is wont to do, God got a hold of me anyway. I became a Christian at 16 in part because of the incredible love a certain group of students showed me despite my not fitting into the southern kid box, and in part because of the Lord arranging circumstances to show me beyond a shadow of a doubt that I could not do life without Him.

Combine my experience with the unarmed Christian kids who could not communicate a reason for why they subscribed to a belief in Christ with my personality, and once I gave in and admitted that God was God (plagiarized from C.S. Lewis), I vowed to know why I believed what I believed.

I began devouring the Bible, asking questions about nearly every verse, dissecting doctrines with people who were highly intelligent and who knew how “to give an answer to everyone who asks [them] to give the reason for the hope that [they] have, ” (1 Peter 3:5).

This whole concept of defending your beliefs is called apologetics. Seminaries offer courses on apologetics, there are countless books written about apologetics, and people make careers out of being apologists.

All those are great things. I’ve grown in my ability to defend the faith through each of those avenues. They have been invaluable to me, and if you haven’t explored them, I invite you to.

But can I tell you the best apologetical training I’ve had? 

Talking to little kids. 

My children have been the best training ground for me. They have real questions, and they need simple answers. And their favorite question is, “Why?”

Can I suggest adults are the same way?

They have real questions, and they need simple answers. And their favorite question is, “Why?”

When we talk to young children (2-10 yrs old), we are forced to answer the question, “Why do we believe what we believe,” and we are challenged to deconstruct churchy terms into words everyone can understand. And that’s what church people need too. And that’s what unbelieving adults need too.

If you want to develop your apologetical muscle, find a kid and explain their need for Jesus to them. You’ll have to do it in words with no more than 2 syllables, and you’ll have to do it in a way that doesn’t scare the hell out of them (literally), which, by the way, ought to be our approach with adults too – hellfire and brimstone tactics should not be our approach with anybody. Ever. For any reason.

There are some great perks of practicing sharing the Gospel with kids.

First of all, they have a natural disposition to believe. They don’t have hard, skeptical hearts because they haven’t experienced all the hurt the world has to offer yet. So they are fully open to what you have to say. Give them a halfway decent explanation, and they will accept it. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I’ve fumbled through many a conversations with my girls between ages 2 and 7, and they are okay with that. You are learning, and so are they.

Secondly, whatever you say won’t change how they feel about you. We are hesitant to talk Jesus with adults because we fear rejection. Kids don’t know the meaning of the word. Even if they think you are pretty well out of your mind, they’ll drop the topic as soon as you’re done talking and ask you to go play outside with them. You’re still their friend. Nothing changes that. Some of the sweetest times for me talking to my daughters about faith have gone something like this: I speak some profound truth of Christianity, my daughter responds, “Huh. That’s funny. Want to play Candy Land?” This is NOT a parenting fail. This is evidence of her full acceptance of me even when she doesn’t understand anything I’ve just said. This is a reflection of God’s unconditional love for me through my little girl. I’ll take it.

Thirdly, and most importantly, they might receive Christ! And even if they don’t, their little minds will continue to think on the things you’ve said, and they will bring the topic back up if they think of a question… even years down the road. Our daughters both prayed to receive Christ when they were 2 years old. I was with them, and I believe as fully as they could understand at that age, they understood what they were doing. We’ve continued to explain the Gospel to them in the years since, and last night my seven year old asked, “Mommy, have I asked Jesus into my heart?” She had continued to ponder what that means, and she was bothered that she didn’t remember doing that at age two. So we talked it through, and she prayed again. They remember things, these little people. They mull them over and bring them back up when you least expect it. So our “practicing” sharing Christ with them is more than just a convenient training ground for us – it’s much more. It’s “planting seeds” in their hearts for the Lord to grow.

Sharing our faith with children grows us just as much as it grows them. Give it a whirl, and let me know how it goes.

Thoughts for the Anxious Christian

Anxiety is a broad term for a lot of different psychological and physiological responses. And people use it in a myriad of ways.

Psychologically speaking, some people say they are anxious when they are mildly worried about something. Others don’t consider passing worry to be anxiety until it becomes obsessively debilitating worry – worry that’s often irrational or over the top.

Still others reserve the word anxious for when their bodies are responding to the fear in their minds – increased heart rates, feeling hot, feeling claustrophobic, feeling unable to breathe, feeling like your having a heart attack, stomachaches. When physical anxiety is at it’s worst, most people call that experience a panic attack.

The nice thing (if there is one) about anxiety is that the Bible speaks to it in more than one place. To be honest with you, I’ve always read verses about anxiety from the stand point of mild worry. But the Lord has me in a season where anxiety means more than that to me, so I am looking afresh at the “anxiety verses”. Just because I’ve limited their meaning in the past to mild worry doesn’t mean that’s the only way God intended them to be interpreted.

On that note, I read this today:

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1Pe 5:6-11)

Verse 6: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” 
  • We should submit to the idea that our anxiety (however we experience it: mild worry, obsessive worry, depression, panic attacks, debilitating anxiety disorders, etc.) is God’s doing (either directly or indirectly); He is in control. He knows what’s best, and, as hard as it is, He has deemed this best for us right now.
  • He will deliver us from this suffering at the proper time. (The NIV isn’t a great translation here; thankfully, vs. 10 clarifies Peter’s meaning.)
Verse 7: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
  • We are to continually place our anxiety on Him, not keep it ourselves. Whether it’s worrisome thoughts or physical anxiety, we should consciously give those things to God. We can do this through prayer: “Lord, I don’t want to worry about ____. I don’t want to be afraid of ____. I don’t want to feel ____. You take these things.”
  • I have a hunch that if God tells us to cast our anxiety on Him, it’s because He is willing to take it from us. In other words, it will be a fruitful exercise. I can’t prove this. So don’t go hanging your hat on it.
  • He cares for us! As alone as we may feel in the midst of anxiety, we are not. And because He cares about us, He wants our anxiety. He wants to free us from all levels of worry, just as we long to ease our childrens’ worried minds and take their physical pain from them.   
Verse 8: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
  • Satan wants to devour us in the midst of our experiencing anxiety. This is an opportune time for him. I don’t know that he can cause our anxious symptoms (particularly physiological responses), but I am certain he tries to exacerbate them by drumming up our fears concerning them.
  • We need to say to Satan, “I will not be the one you devour!” in the midst of our anxious episodes.
  • We are not picked on by Satan because we are weak or less than; I believe we are targeted because we unashamedly identify ourselves with Jesus. We should consider Satan’s attacks an honor and not feel ashamed in anyway that we are experiencing them (1 Peter 4:12-19).
Verse 9: “Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
  • We can resist Satan by declaring truth out loud, “God is good. He only allows that which is in my best interest. I refuse to believe otherwise. He is in total control, and I am safe with Him.” (Psalm 107:1, Romans 8:28, Proverbs 19:21, Psalm 4:8)
  • We are not alone! Believers all over the world and all over our own churches are experiencing the same kinds of anxiety in all its forms. As a side note, Satan seeks to divide and conquer us by isolating us. The more we share our stories with each other, the braver we all become to get the help we need to overcome our anxiety, especially the more debilitating forms.
Verse 10: “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
  • We will suffer, but not forever; only for a little while.
  • We are personally called and chosen by God, and He Himself will restore us from this season of suffering. And when He restores us to emotional health, He will make us strong, firm and steadfast. There is no mincing words here; this is a promise
Verse 11: “To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”
  • It is by His power and as a testament to His power that these things will come to pass.
  • Amen is an expression of absolute confidence that it will be so. Peter is confident. We can be confident.
Whether you struggle with “normal” worrying from time to time or more intense anxiety, reread this passage of scripture the next time you feel concerned. There is power in the Word. I’d even encourage you to read it out loud. In some situations, doing so will be enough to quell the anxiety and empower you to cast all your anxiety on the Lord. Other situations warrant additional action steps. Either way, incorporating scripture will undoubtedly help us.

On Spiritual Warfare

Some days truth doesn’t come quite as easily as others…

Feelings are loud, and lies even louder, as the suffering promised us dials up.

Peter.

He said it would be like this.

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings,” (1 Peter 5:8-9).

Peter calls spiritual warfare suffering because it hurts to be the center of a spiritual battle, the soul over which the heavenlies clash.

We get wounded, you and I, in this process.

Blood is drawn and bones are broken. Hearts are bruised and minds are broken, deceived as we’re spun every which way but right by our enemy.

He’s a lion. Looking to devour us.

His claws are sharp and his teeth even more so.

He creeps silently, stalking us like unsuspecting gazelle.

Don’t be unsuspecting.

He leaps for us, mouth wide open, eyes salivating.

But the Lord…

…we are His.

We were already won the moment we received His death and resurrection.

So when Satan lunges, we slip through his teeth.

His claws may graze our skin, and we might bleed and hurt and break, but we are still firmly in the Lord’s hand…

…and we will heal in the Lord’s hand.

And we will be with Him forevermore.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast,” (1 Peter 5:10).

Yes, there will be suffering at the hands of Satan (see Job).

But only for a little while.

God Himself will restore us and make us strong in body and in mind.

He will enable us to stand firm and steadfast on truth.

Lord, speak truth to us.

When the lies are loud and the suffering great, Lord, speak truth to us.

Why Church Membership is Important

So my last three posts – When it’s Not Okay to Leave Your Church, When it’s Okay to Leave Your Church, and What to do if You’re Unhappy at Your Church – all started with a basic presupposition: church membership is important.

Why is church membership important?

But there is an ever-increasing number of Jesus-loving people who don’t share that view. And it makes perfect sense that if you don’t value church membership, you are less inclined to feel like loyalty to your church (or any church, for that matter), is a biblical hill to die on. 

In fact, one of my readers was brave and honest enough to just say what a lot of you may be thinking:

“These last three blogs seem like a whole lot of agonizing over a non-issue to me. If a church is not for you, move on. End of story. And no, don’t feel sad or guilty about it. There aren’t thousands of separate churches. There is one true Church (as in body of Christ that we commit to), and all the separate institutions are just parts of the whole. If you don’t like your building, go to another. Loyalty to a bad/mediocre/not for you church is just silly.”

I so appreciate this comment because it clued me in to the fact that I shouldn’t assume we all value church membership. And we must value membership before we can talk about persevering in our commitments to our churches.

So, why is church membership important? After all, church membership isn’t even in the Bible…

Or is it?

It’s true, you can search for the word “membership” all day long and not find it in the Bible. But if we stop and look at Paul’s letters and other New Testament writings, we find commitment to a local church commanded ad nauseum.

Each letter Paul wrote was to a local church body – at Rome, at Corinth, at Galatia, at Ephesus, at Philippi, at Colossae, at Thessalonica. And in talking to these individual churches, Paul stresses things like unity (Ephesians 4:3, Philippians 2:1-4, Colossians 3:14) and each believer using his spiritual gifts to build up the body (1 Corinthians 12:7, Ephesians 4:12). He emphasizes serving one another (Galatians 5:13) and sacrificing personal freedoms in order to see to the best interests of others (1 Corinthians 9:12, 10:32). Paul commands Roman believers to “be devoted to one another in love,” and to, “Honor one another above yourselves,” (Romans 12:10).

New Testament books written by other people speak to the same topics as well as to believers in local church bodies submitting to church authority figures (Acts 16:4, Hebrews 13:17, 1 Peter 5:5).

In other words, the majority of the New Testament is about how to do church in the lowercase c sense. And when all the lowercase churches do church the way Paul and others tell them to, the uppercase Church – as in the body of Christ all believers are committed to – is freed up to accomplish its God-given responsibilities to spread the good news about Jesus and to help believers grow in their understanding of Jesus.

Without committing to a local church body – and by that I mean doing more than filling a pew anonymously on some Sunday mornings – how do we live like the New Testament tells us to? When we church hop and/or fly under the radar of church authority by not committing to a local church (which our culture calls “becoming a church member”), it’s hard to be held accountable to live our lives according to the Bible. We have no community context in which to live out the New Testament commands.

If we leave our churches when our preferences aren’t met, how is that being devoted to one another or honoring others above ourselves or sacrificing personal freedoms for the benefit of others?

If we leave our churches every time the Elders make a decision we don’t particularly care for, how is that submitting to their God-given authority?

If we leave our churches every time we have a disagreement with other believers, how is that working toward unity?

If we aren’t committed to our church, who’s going to help us see when we are erring in our ways?

What’s more, it’s difficult (impossible?) for the Church to do its jobs when believers constantly flit from one part of the body to another – from one little c church to the next. It takes time and people to get programs that reach nonbelievers and programs that disciple believers rolling, and it takes commitment from said people to keep them rolling. If we all leave our churches every time we become dissatisfied with something, there is an “us” shaped hole in the ministries in which we were serving/participating, setting the ministries back.

Church membership is the answer to these kinds of problems. It isn’t a commitment to a building, like my friend stated, but, rather, it is an avenue through which we can be encouraged to live our lives according to the New Testament – to love one another, to work out our differences for the sake of unity, to serve others, to submit to elders – which requires a community of believers.

“Church membership” may be a modern term not used in the Bible, but the concept is one of its main themes. The idea that one can be committed to the capital C Church without being actively involved in a local lowercase c church is a myth at best and a lie at worst.

You may love Jesus, and, by His grace, you may be going to Heaven, but the Bible is clear that you can’t live a New Testament life without being committed to your lowercase c church. God desires us to live in accordance with His word because it’s in our best interest to do so and because He is glorified when we obey.

And that, I believe, is a biblical hill to die on.