Essentially all followers of Jesus Christ are part of the Christian church; however, many of us are also part of a local Christian church. Local churches range from small meetings in private homes to enormous mega churches with auditoriums that seat thousands and a television broadcast that reaches millions. Broken down into denominations and sub-denominations and all the various independent denominations, we end up with tens of thousands of different ways to build a Christian church. How did the Christian church become so fractionalized? I’m absolutely certain this was not God’s design. Could it be our enemy the devil has waged an ongoing campaign to divide and conquer the Christian church? What might be possible if we were all going in the same direction, dedicated to the same goals?
Regardless of this division, there are certain things most Christian churches have in common. First of all, they are a place for followers of Jesus Christ to meet and worship God together. If you’re a member of a local church, that may be your primary reason for attending – worshiping with other believers. Singing praises to God, praying together, listening to a message from the Word of God, are all ways we worship in the local church. Most of us have these things in common. Beyond these basic worship practices your local Christian church experience may also include some kind of dedicated Bible study, special programs for children of all ages, and more informal gatherings simply for fellowship. The local church can be a very comforting place and a solid anchoring point for your spiritual well-being.
In the book of Acts we find the following example of the early local Christian Church:
Acts 2:41-47 (NASB)
“So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
In many ways the above scripture sounds a lot like the local Christian church today. They were devoted to the apostles’ teaching, there was fellowship, and they were sharing meals together. Of course, when we read that many wonders and signs were taking place we have to stop and consider the miraculous things they were witnessing that added a great deal to their worship experience. Some churches today believe the miraculous is still possible and others believe that time has passed. Still, I believe most of us agree that God is indeed working around us and while we may have to look a little harder for examples of His work – it is there.
One thing presented in the above example of the early Christian church that may not be prevalent in all local churches today is the willingness of church members to sell their property and share the proceeds with the other church members. I suppose when the collection plate is passed in most local churches that is a form of sharing your possessions, but paying the mortgage and utilities on a church building, and meeting the staff payroll was not the point of this early church example. In this example, church members were supporting the needs of other church members.
When we consider how the local Christian church might best serve God, I don’t think there’s any question that providing a worship venue and a dedicated team of men and women devoted to teaching the Bible, and providing spiritual comfort, is essential. It may well be the case that the early church is teaching us that beyond these basic worship needs, the local Christian church would do well to focus more precisely on meeting the material needs of its members. Your local church may already be doing that, and I’m sure most local churches do as much as they can, but would it be possible to do much more if all Christian churches were pointed in the same direction, dedicated to the same goals?
Right now there’s someone in this world who has a problem that you have the resources, talent and desire to solve. The only problem is you don’t know who that person is. Followers of Jesus Christ all have an inborn desire to help others, but we can’t help if we don’t know who’s in need of that which we have to give. When I turn on my computer I see many wonders taking place. I’m able to communicate with the entire world! If there was a collective will among all Christian churches, a method could be devised to use the power of the Internet to put those in need in touch with those who have the ability to help. We could all be sharing all we have with anyone who might have need.
Who knows what the future will deliver? Perhaps someone is working right now on a way to connect those in need with those willing and able to help. Maybe your church is more devoted to serving God in this way than others and can share their passion with other churches. Without question, building a Christian church should definitely include a dedicated effort to do everything possible to provide as anyone might have need.
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