FIRST-PERSON: More than a building
EL CAJON, Calif. (BP) -- We all say it: "Let's meet at the church." Somewhere along the way we began referring to "the building where the church meets" as "the church."
The early church started meeting in homes and in the temple court in Jerusalem (Acts 2:46). But today, the church convenes in a variety of locations. Some congregations meet in converted storefronts while others assemble in beautiful buildings.
But they all serve the same purpose: They are a place for us to gather and worship the Lord.
Hopefully all Christian congregations will remember that the building is not "the" church. The first-century church proved beyond a doubt that buildings are not necessary for the church to grow and prosper and change the world.
Are buildings convenient? Yes. They provide a central place for the true church of Jesus Christ to meet for worship, instruction, celebration and ministry. Just as it's nice to have a home in which to invite friends, so a church building should serve as a "home" to the community.
Church membership: An option or not?
Far too many Christians have decided that church affiliation is optional. That is not a biblical idea, but a worldly one. And it parallels the lack of commitment seen in other areas of life today.
Christians have confused going to a church building with being a member of a church. Granted, many churches today don't keep a formal membership roll. But in any church it's easy to see who the committed members are: They are the ones who are doing the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12).
Those who simply "go to church" on Sunday mornings may be participating in worship and in giving, but they are living on the edge of church membership by not getting intimately involved in the life of the church they attend church. The New Testament describes the necessity for every true Christian to be a healthy, contributing part of a local gathering of believers.
You: A part of the body
The concept of the body of Christ gives us the paradigm for why church membership is mandatory. The apostle Paul likens the spiritual church to the human body in 1 Corinthians 12 and suggests, that just as every organ and limb in the body has a role to play, so every member of the body of Christ has a role to play as well.
We are reminded: "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all" (1 Corinthians 12:4-7).
You and your church
You should assume that if God led you to attend a church it is for the purpose of joining and serving. Because every healthy church is growing with expanding needs, you should look for an opportunity to serve that matches your spiritual gifts (Ephesians 4:11-13; Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12-14; 1 Peter 4:10-11).
If you are not sure where to begin serving in your church, think about who God has made you to be -- how He has equipped you with gifts. Whatever your skill set, there is a place for you to serve.
As Paul notes: "For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them" (Romans 12:4-6). It is very clear: You have a role to play in your local congregation.
You don't have to attend church in a cathedral to draw closer to God. You only need to join with others in a Christian community to enjoy the deepest fellowship possible -- the fellowship of the body of Christ with the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ Himself.
Stepping into a building built for Christ is a good thing. But stepping into the community of Christ as part of His body is far better.