Autopsy of a Deceased Church – A Review

Autopsy of a Deceased ChurchWhile getting my oil changed at my local car garage, I relaxed in the slightly broken in red couch and read the entire 100 pages of the book Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive by Thom Rainer.  The book was simple to read.  Easy to comprehend.  And stomach churning to digest.

Having been involved in working with a local church (and some of its sister-churches) that was convinced that it was struggling (but not convinced that it was dying) and temporarily convinced that the idea of resuscitation was a good thing, some of the elements of the autopsy were all too familiar.

Slow erosion. The past is the hero. Refusal to look like the community. No longer gospel-driven. Preference driven. Purposeless. These are some of the familiar elements mentioned in the book.

No matter if you think you church is healthy, symptomatic, very sick, or dying, Autopsy of a Deceased Church is worth a read.  The chapters could wake you up to warning signs. Or the chapters could help you pinpoint specific problems undermining the health of the congregation.  Plus, the book offers hope for symptomatic and sick churches and excellent pastoral advice for terminally ill congregations.

In fact, if I have any qualms with the little book, it is that the second half, 12 responses to the question, “Is there hope for the dying church?” could have been longer and more fully developed.  The responses for three stages (My church has symptoms of sickness, my church is very sick, my church is dying) are thoughtful and clear.  I only wish that there had been more body to the responses.

I wish that Autopsy had been written years ago so that maybe, just maybe, the book may have been welcomed as a healthy reality check.  A few of the sister churches have died.  My old local church, that I served for years, is still around; and I still pray that the remaining members and new leadership blood can break free from the habits that were slowly eating its life away in the past.

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Hello, My Name is Church

church peopleHello, My Name is Church

By Anonymous

Hello my name is church,

I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about me. I have no shortage of critics. Perhaps you have heard that I am…

Boring
Shallow
Cheap
A waste of time

You’ve heard that I am full of:

 

Hypocrites
Clowns
Greedy people
The self-righteous

Maybe you have visited me before and discovered:

Horrible music
Passionless singing
Dry preaching
Rude congregants

Maybe you needed me and I was:

Too busy
Too “righteous”
Too broke
Too blind

Maybe you joined me and found I was:

Distant
Demanding
Dull
Preoccupied

Maybe you tried to serve in me but were caught off guard by:

Business meetings
Committees
Teams
Bureaucracy

Maybe you left and were surprised that nobody:

Called
Cared
Noticed
Invited you back

Perhaps your experience has driven you to:

Speak negatively of me
Swear to never come back to me
Proclaim that no one needs me
Believe you’re better off without me

If this is true, I have something to say to you:

I’m sorry
I was wrong
I blew it
I made a huge mistake

But remember, I never said my name was:

Perfect
Flawless
Complete
Arrived

My name is church. I welcome the:

Hypocrite
Dry
Self-righteous
Shallow

I welcome the

Sincere
Passionate
Forgiving
Selfless

I cannot shut my doors to the people who make you:

Angry
Uncomfortable
Impatient
Self-conscious

But I would remind you that we couldn’t always worship in the same room. In the Old Testament there was a division between the:

Gentile
Jew
Man
Woman

In order for us to all worship in the same room Christ was:

Shamed
Beaten
Killed
Resurrected

Which is far worse than being:

Bored
Uncomfortable
Embarrassed
Ignored

So why not come back to church and let all of these messed up people:

Challenge you
Sharpen you
Strengthen you
Humble you

I can’t promise you that the people will be great. This is church. It’s not:

Heaven
Paradise
Beulah Land
The Celestial city

Come back.

God wants you here.
The body needs you here.
The world needs your witness here.
You belong here.

Hello, my name is church.

I miss you.

I love you.

I’m sorry.

Can’t wait to see you.

 

Are You a Part-Time Churchgoer?

Are You a Part-Time Churchgoer? You May Be Surprised

By Trevin Wax

Geoff and Christine are thirty-something churchgoers who love Jesus and love their three kids. They consider themselves faithful members of New Life Community Church.

Their oldest is about to be in the youth group, and their youngest is finally out of diapers. Christine has been involved in the kids’ ministry through the years. Geoff is a deacon.

But they are part-timers when it comes to church attendance, and they never set out to be.

They are not alone.

Recent statistics show that an increasing number of evangelicals who are firm in their faith are flabby in their practice of actually gathering with their brothers and sisters in worship. It’s the part-time syndrome, and it can sneak up on any of us.

Let’s go back to Geoff and Christine. There are 52 Sundays a year, and last year, they attended a worship gathering on 28 of those Sundays. (That’s an average of about twice a month.) What happened?

  • Vacation: To maximize his allotted days, Geoff took the family to the mountains during the kids’ spring break, stretching over two weekends (one of which happened to be Easter!). There was the summer beach vacation, another stretch of a week and two weekends, and then a fall getaway. Total = 5 Sundays.
  • Sports: Their oldest son is on a travel soccer team. Many of the games are on weekends, and they believe it would be a better testimony to be among unbelievers on Sunday mornings rather than let down the team. Total = 9 Sundays.
  • Sickness: With their youngest child going to preschool, the family seems more susceptible to illnesses than before, and sickness always seems to hit on the weekends. Total = 3 Sundays.
  • Guest Preacher: When Pastor Jon is out of town, Geoff and Christine usually take the weekend off. They never like the guest speaker as much as Pastor Jon. Total = 3 Sundays.
  • Visiting In-Laws: Christine’s parents come twice a year to spend the weekend with the family. To maximize their time, they usually spend the weekends catching up and doing some shopping. Total = 2 Sundays.
  • Holiday: Thanksgiving weekend, and the week in between Christmas and New Year’s, the family is traveling. Total = 2 Sundays.

Geoff and Christine may be a fictional couple, but their situation is true for many of us. Recently, a church leader told me their most faithful attendees are only in church 2-3 times a month. They basically expect churchgoers to be “hit or miss” every week.

Danger #1 – Guilt You Into Going

Now, there are two wrong ways church leaders might address this issue. The first is to go all Hebrews 10 on everyone and emphasize the importance of the worship gathering, so as to whip people into shape and guilt them into church attendance. Sorry, but this isn’t a gospel-centered approach.

We should never take the command of Hebrews 10 about neglecting the church and isolate it from the preceding verses (about the privilege of coming before God in a community of faith that holds to a confession of hope). That’s giving the imperative (“Go to church!”) without the indicative (“You are welcomed into the throne room of grace with your family in Christ.”).

This approach also stresses church as a place we go, rather than church as the people with whom we gather. It reinforces the idea that the church is a building and leads people to think holiness happens by being present every week.

Lastly, this method could cause people to have a checklist mentality, where we pat themselves on the back for being in church 48 weeks a year, while neglecting other important matters – like justice and love. Churchgoing isn’t necessarily a sign of spiritual health. How many times do you think the Pharisees were absent from the temple?

Danger #2 – Avoid the Issue

The second danger is to be so concerned with the first that we fail to address the imperative in Hebrews 10 at all. In doing so, we ignore the importance of the church as the family of Christ, the people with whom we are to gather and hear the gospel.

Because of our strong distaste for legalistic checklists, we might minimize the counterfeit gods that creep into our lives and vie for our free time. In the desire to avoid legalism, we never mention that a ball can become a Ba’al for some, or that leisure and comfort can become idols that keep us from worshipping the true God with other believers.

In an effort to not guilt people into church attendance, we never make people aware of the fact that grace is presented week after week. Guilt is the result of not going to church – not because you feel bad for not living up to God’s expectations, but because you’re not hearing the message of gospel grace pounded into you week after week.

A renewed vision of worship

The best way to respond is not with guilt or with a false grace, but with the reminder of the purpose of worship. You aren’t there to fill up at the gas station (after all, you can get some sort of spiritual sustenance by reading or listening to your preacher’s podcasts apart from the body of Christ). This is a distorted view of the purpose of gathering.

The author of Hebrews clues us in. Being with your brothers and sisters is where you are able to stir one another up to love and good deeds. It’s the place where the confession of hope is celebrated and put before you and where you are urged to cling to it tightly.

It’s not the content you receive every week that is so formative; it’s the act of being together and making the Lord’s family your priority. It’s similar to a family that gathers every evening for a meal. The value is not in the specifics of your conversation, but the very act of demonstrating your love for each other.

We don’t go to church because of guilt. We are the church because of grace.

That’s what Geoff and Christine, along with you and I, need to remember.

Why Millennials Are Leaving the Church: A Response to Rachel Held Evans

Smile Jesus

“Truth be told, I don’t want a church that serves my preferences. I want a church that gives me Jesus and makes me want to serve His.”

The below article by Trevin Wax takes on a recently published article calling the church to change in order to keep the millennial generation.  What is excellent about the response is that Wax notes the areas in which he is in agreement with the critique of the church by Rachel Held Evans as well as pointing out where their views differ.  

Ultimately, the differences in views is highlighted by Wax’s call to a less “cultural Christianity” leading towards biblical discipleship while R.H.E. holds up a caricature (which some churches may indeed match) of the church and calls it to preach a Jesus that meets the millennial’s current sociopolitical desires.  It is not that the list of dreams offered by R.H.E. is “bad,” but rather the emphasis we are left with is a call to change the packaging and the substance of the church rather than a call to emphasizing the true substance of the church – Jesus Christ – while also considering contextualization (the packaging).  As Wax deftly points out, “[Millennials] have left the churches that most resemble the type of community described by Rachel at rates far greater than evangelical churches.”    

Can the Christian community as expressed by the local church learn and change without compromising the truth? Absolutely.  Are adaptations necessary, of course.  Different communities have different cultures, and the church should consider how best to adapt to their particular context, but in a way that does not compromise the gospel nor constantly ebb and flow with every popular trend or capitulate to the pressures of the spirit of the age.  

Why Millennials Are Leaving the Church:
A Response to Rachel Held Evans

By Trevin Wax

In a recent column for CNN, Rachel Held Evans offers some thoughts on “why millennials are leaving the church.” Her post struck a chord with readers. She is addressing a perennial topic of conversation among church leaders and church goers: what will happen to the next generation.

Like Rachel, I’m 32 – right on the border of the millennials, and many of the questions and doubts I hear from the millennial generation resonate with me too. But my analysis differs somewhat from Rachel’s.

Rachel’s Analysis

Rachel thinks millennials are leaving the church due to the perception that evangelicals are

“… too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”

She’s right to decry a vision of Christianity that reduces repentance to a list of do’s and don’ts. I too have noticed that many millennials desire to be involved in mercy ministry and support justice causes. And I couldn’t agree more when she says “we want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation.”

The Church’s Response

How has the church responded? Rachel sees church leaders trying to update their music or preaching style, and thereby running up against the “highly sensitive BS meters” we millennials have. We’re not fooled by consumerism or performances when churches cater to what they think we want.

Rachel writes:

“What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance.”

I agree with that sentence for the most part, although I would tweak the last line to say “What millennials really want from the church is substance.” Not a change in substance, necessarily, just substance will do.

Too often, our churches have offered a sanitized, spiritualized version of self-help therapy, and Jesus has been missing. And that’s the problem. Like every generation, she says, “deep down we long for Jesus.”

Here’s where Rachel and I part ways – on what communities following Jesus look like in our culture.

The Biblical Jesus

When I read the Gospels, I’m confronted by a Jesus who explodes our categories of righteousness and sin, repentance and forgiveness, and power and purity.

I meet a Jesus who doesn’t do away with the Law of the Old Testament, but ramps up the demands in order to lead us to Himself – the One who calls us to life-altering repentance and faith.

I see a King who makes utterly exclusive claims, and doesn’t seem to care who is offended.

I see a King who didn’t hold back anything from His people, and who expects His people to hold back nothing from Him.

Is the Church Obsessed with Sex, or is it the Culture?

Following Jesus leaves no part of our life unchanged.

That’s why it strikes me as odd that Rachel sees “obsession with sex” as one of the biggest obstacles for contemporary Christianity to overcome. I visit lots of churches, and I find that sexuality is not a frequently discussed subject from most church platforms or Bible studies. In fact, one could make the case that Christians haven’t talked enough about Jesus’ radical zealousness when it comes to sexuality. The fact that cohabitation, premarital sex and pornography are often overlooked among our congregations betrays the vision of sexuality Jesus put forward – a vision of the sacredness of a man and woman’s covenant for life, one that excludes even lustful thoughts from God’s design.

When it comes to sexual obsession, we ought to take a look at pop culture. One can hardly watch a TV show or a popular movie without being assaulted with sexual innuendos, crude jokes, or overt displays of all kinds of sexuality. Pastors and church leaders go on news talk shows and are badgered about their views of sexuality, as if nothing else matters but that the church join in and celebrate our culture’s embrace of Aphrodite in all her warped splendor.

Challenged to Holiness

Rachel says millennials want to be “challenged to holiness,” but the challenge she appears to be advocating is one on our own terms and according to our own preferences. That’s why I find it ironic that she decries the catering churches that alert our “BS meters,” while simultaneously telling church leaders they should do a better job catering to our generation’s whims and wishes. (She has since clarified this as not a list of demands, but desires and dreams.)

Truth be told, I don’t want a church that serves my preferences. I want a church that gives me Jesus and makes me want to serve His

Counting the Cost

One sign of Jesus’ Spirit is He convicts the world of sin (John 16:8). The sign of the spirit of this age is that the world is coddled instead of convicted. And those who marry the spirit of this age will always be widowed in the next.

Perhaps that’s why millennials have left the churches that most resemble the type of community described by Rachel at rates far greater than evangelical churches. When the counter-cultural message of Jesus is softened or tweaked, or the raging idols of this age (such as money, sex, and power) are overlooked or ignored, the cost of Christianity disappears. Christianity without a cost is Christianity without the cross. And Christianity without the cross isn’t Christianity at all.

What Kind of Millennial Christian Will We Be?

Some millennials, like many from generations before us, want the church to become a mirror – a reflection of our particular preferences, desires, and dreams. But other millennials want a Christianity that shapes and changes our preferences, desires, and dreams.

We’re eager to pass the gospel on to the next generation, to live in ways that call into question the idolatries of our age, to stand in a long line of believers who have been out of the mainstream, constantly maligned and misrepresented, but who love Jesus, love people, and aren’t afraid to call everyone to repentance.

That’s a Christianity this millennial believes is worth dying for, but also one that’s worth living out in a local church with other believers from all generations.

7 Life Lessons from Dr. John Piper

John Piper Lessons

7 THINGS I’VE LEARNED FROM DR. JOHN PIPER

By Mark Driscoll

Recently Bethlehem Baptist Church hosted a celebration event to honor Dr. John Piper, who retired from the pulpit after more than 32 years of faithful service. I was genuinely saddened that I was unable to attend, as I needed to serve at Mars Hill Church.

While much can be learned from John’s life, I wanted to share seven lessons I’ve learned from his example that are especially helpful for younger leaders. This may seem basic, but it’s a lifetime commitment to some basic things, faithfully pursued day after day, year after year, and decade after decade, that makes a difference. It’s what Eugene Peterson called “a long obedience in the same direction.”

1. STUDY THE BIBLE

Bible study will help deepen your conviction and clarify your confusion. But don’t just study to have great sermons or a great ministry—study to experience the love of God and grow in love for God. Out of that experience comes family and ministry.

2. STAY IN ONE PLACE

Many leaders, particularly young leaders, are like a husband with a wandering eye. They are never really married to a church or ministry, but rather only sleeping with one while they keep their options open, constantly looking for a potentially bigger and better opportunity. I recently spoke with a young leader and he asked me how you know which ministry opportunity is the best. I told him the best ministry is the one you marry. The family of God is like our own families. There is never an easy way to have a great family. It takes a covenantal commitment and lifetime investment.

3. TEACH THE BIBLE

The Holy Spirit, who wrote the Scriptures, is glad to anoint the man who opens the Scriptures to teach about Jesus. John was originally on a path toward a lifetime of professorship at a seminary when Jesus rerouted his life journey into a local church. And he’s been teaching the Bible ever since. A life spent teaching the Bible is not a wasted life but rather an invested life. Having a bit of passion never hurts either.

4. CARE ABOUT YOUNG LEADERS

I first met John when I was a young man. I have seen him demonstrate a constant concern and commitment to young leaders. His care for them explains in large part why a generation of young leaders appreciates him.

5. IF YOU CAN WRITE, WRITE

Very few are prolific enough to publish 50 books, but when we write down what we learn, we are forced to sharpen our understanding and we are blessed to share it with others. The first book I read by John was Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which he edited with Dr. Wayne Grudem. I was a newer Christian in college, and my pastor recommended it. It’s a big book. But I read it, and it was foundational to the rest of my life, influencing how I read the Bible, how I lead our family, and how we govern our church. Another one of my favorite books from John is Finally Alive. In simple, readable language, he explores the new birth that happens when the Holy Spirit regenerates believers.

Writing is a way to serve more people than you will ever know, possibly beyond your lifetime, even if the writing is something simple, like position papers and blog posts for your own church.

6. YOU NEVER REALLY RETIRE

While John is transitioning from leadership as the preaching and vision pastor at Bethlehem, he will still be serving Jesus and not playing shuffleboard for the rest of his life. Teaching and writing will be occupying much of his time, as he’s committed to investing—not wasting—his final years in God’s kingdom.

7. GLORIFY GOD BY ENJOYING HIM FOREVER

John once quipped in a conversation that he had only one sermon message and everything he’s ever taught was a variation of that big idea: God is greater than anyone or anything, and living for his glory in all things, by his grace, is why we were made and where we find our joy.

In this season, let us thank God for John and learn from his example to walk in God’s grace and invest our lives in what Jesus invested his life in, the people who are the church. Let us pray for Bethlehem Baptist as they enter a new season with their new preaching pastor. And let us pray for John as he still has a lot of tread on the tires for the coming years.

Church During College

Great article in The Gospel Coalition by Jon Nielson:

Do any of these comments sound familiar?

  • “I love Jesus, but I really can’t stand Christians.”
  • “I want to follow Jesus, but I don’t want to be a part of anything ‘institutional’ like a church.”

Or how about:

  • “I’m a part of the universal church; I don’t need to be part of a local church.”

If you haven’t yet heard comments like these . . . you will. You’ll hear them during your college years, and you’ll hear them from people who profess to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior. So how will you deal with church during your college years? Let me offer a few words of encouragement and exhortation as this school year begins.

A Church Is . . . 

First, let’s remember, biblically, what the church is.

1. A People, Not a Place

Listen to these words from 1 Peter 2: As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” The church is not a place; the church is the people of God. Many churches have beautiful buildings and sanctuaries. But without the people of God gathering together, it would not be a church.

2. Something Jesus Loves

In the midst of Paul’s teaching on marriage in Ephesians 5 we find remarkable insight on the relationship between Jesus and the church: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Jesus loves the church. Jesus died for the church. Jesus wants to one day present the church as forever holy and perfect. The church is something Jesus Christ—our Savior and Lord—loves dearly.

3. The Body of Christ

Ephesians 1 describes the church this way: “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” Over and over again the Bible calls the church the body of Christ and identifies Jesus as the head. When you hear someone say, “I want to follow Jesus, but I don’t want to be a part of a church,” take the “body” imagery seriously and literally.

When we attempt to follow Jesus apart from the church, we essentially tear apart the body of Jesus. We decapitate him. What may have seemed at first to be an almost righteous-sounding statement becomes fiercely sinful and disrespectful, and it flies in the face of everything the Bible tells us about the relationship between Jesus and his church.

4. God’s Main Weapon in this World

We’re too often distracted by the spots and wrinkles to see the great purpose and calling God has given to the church. Paul had a grand vision for the church when he wrote these inspired words in Ephesians 3: To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”

Did you catch that final clause? God delivers his “manifold wisdom” through the church! He entrusts the greatest message in the world—the mystery of the gospel—to the church. There is no greater weapon God could have committed to his peoples’ hands.

5. The Only Eternal Institution in the World

Of the world’s many formidable institutions—governments, corporations, law firms, and so on—only one will last forever. Listen to the apostle John’s vision of the church—God’s people—at the end of time:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”

The church is eternal, because God has eternally committed himself to its welfare.

Let’s Be Clear

We’ve been talking thus far about “the church”—meaning the “universal” church, comprising every believer in Jesus Christ who has ever lived.

The “local” church has a more specific definition, but it does not belong to a completely different category than the universal church. The local church is a localized and organized manifestation of the universal church. This means that everything we’ve been saying about the “church” can also, in general, be applied to the local church. We can’t obey the Bible’s instructions about life in the universal church unless we live them out in the context of a local church body.

As the universal church grew in the first century through conversions to Christ, local churches sprouted throughout the Roman world. This is why the New Testament usually calls a local church “the church at x city.” It is THE church—localized in a particular way.

These local churches soon took on leadership and organization. Paul told Titus to “appoint elders in every town” as a way to establish godly leadership at the various local churches, and then gave him the spiritual qualifications for identifying these men. Local churches were characterized by two essential activities: the preaching of the Word and the celebration of the sacraments. Under these two core activities come other aspects of corporate worship: prayer, public Scripture reading, offering, singing, and fellowship.

Observing this pattern, we understand the local church as a localized manifestation of the universal church that meets regularly for the preaching of the Word and the celebration of the sacraments, under the leadership, direction, and discipline of elders.

For This School Year

Love for the “universal” church necessitates love for and commitment to the “local” church. So our local churches seek to manifest the universal church as a part of the body of Christ we can love, see, touch, struggle with, give to, and serve.

So as you begin this school year as a Christ-following college student, please hear this appeal from a Christian brother.

1. Go to Church

Find a church that preaches God’s Word and holds true to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and go there during your college years. Get up on Sunday mornings. Get dressed. Leave your dorm. Grab a friend. And get to church on time.

2. Join a Church

Don’t just go to church. Join a church during your college years. Membership is, as College Church senior pastor Josh Moody often puts it, a “visible sign of an invisible reality.” Membership does not save you, but it does visibly represent your salvation. Belonging to a local body of Christ may signify that you belong—by faith—to Christ himself.

Practically, too, there are huge benefits to church membership during your college years and beyond. As a member, you place yourself under the spiritual guidance and authority of godly elders and pastors. You make a covenant with God and the people of the church to support them, give to them, care for them, and participate in their fellowship.

3. Serve a Church

Don’t just go to church. Don’t just join a church. Begin serving actively in a local church during your college years. Far too many young adults church “hop” during their college years. They become church consumers. Gathering nuggets of wisdom from various sermons and preachers. Getting a spiritual fix from vibrant singing, prayer, and fellowship here and there. Never giving and participating substantially in the life and ministry of a local body of believers.

Friends, the local church needs you during your college years. They will benefit from having you there, plugged in, and committed. It will be good for your heart and soul as well.

Not Forsaking the Assembling Together

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  (Hebrews 10:23-25 ESV)

If I could leave you with one thought, it’s this: Go.  Go to church.  Don’t go for the coffee, the presentations, the music, or the amenities.  Don’t even go for the feelings you may or may not get when you go because, no offense, these feelings may or may not be trustworthy most of the time.  Go for the gospel.  Go for the preaching.  Go to be near to God’s Word (Why We Love the Church, p. 196).

The church is not an incidental part of God’s plan…He called [people] to repent, called them to faith, called them out of the world, and called them into the church.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7).  If we truly love the church we will bear with her failings, endure her struggles, believe her to be the beloved bride of Christ, and hope for her final glorification.  I still believe the church is the hope of the world – not because she gets it all right, but because she is a body with Christ for her Head.

Don’t give upon the church.  The New Testament knows nothing of churchless Christianity.  The invisible church is for invisible Christians.  The visible church is for you and me [my emphasis added].

So I guess this is my final advice: Find a good local church, get involved, become a member, stay there for the long haul…Go to church this Sunday and worship there is spirit and truth, be patient with your leaders, rejoice when the gospel is proclaimed, bear with those who hurt you, and give people the benefit of the doubt.  While you are there, sing like you mean it…enjoy the Sundays that click for you, pray extra hard on the Sundays that don’t, and do not despise “the day of small things” (Zechariah 4:10) (p. 226).