Since I was little, I had a drug problem. My parents drug me to church! I was a regular user of Sunday school, vacation bible school and Sunday services. I partook often in the doxology, the communion of the saints and the Lord’s prayer. When I walked down the aisle at First Baptist Church in Leon Sprigs, Texas to respond to what Jesus was doing in my heart at age 11, I was hooked. I didn’t really understand the pull or the complete dependence that would take hold of my life. Years later I tried to break this addiction in college by running away from my faith and faith family. The pull was stronger than I could imagine and there was no escaping the fact; I was a life-long Jesus loving, church junkie!
Looking back on my life, it’s FULL of local church influence. Here are just a few reasons I give my time, energy and passion to the local church.
1. The local church introduced me to Jesus. All the songs, sermons, steeples, and more pointed me to something so much bigger. JESUS. In the local church I learned: that Jesus loved me that I was a sinner in need of a savior, that Jesus died for me and that I needed to give my heart to him. When I did, I was never the same. To this day I know with certainty that this was the most important decision of my life. Yes, I’m saved, forgiven, spirit filled, empowered, called, anointed and heaven bound! Where else can you get that but through Christ and a local church?
2. The local church helped set the trajectory of my life. Life was a challenge with forces that sought to undo me such as, marijuana, a sexual predator, my own rebellion and low self esteem. The church was always there reminding me I had purpose, victory and hope. School was out in the summer, baseball seasons end, but the church always meets. My best friends were part of the church (not always the same local church. I met my wife because of relationships developed in church. I learned, witnessed and experienced valuable life skills that will serve me my whole life: forgiveness, love, joy, peace, sacrifice, generosity and faithfulness.
3. Every church member is family. I love my family. I was especially fond of my one set of living grandparents; however they lived over 5 hours away, then they passed away. I found in the church many other grandparent types to encourage, love unconditionally, support and impart their wisdom to me. I was always amazed at how all the generations (young and old) would come together in the local church. What unites us is far greater than what divides us! Everyone who knows Jesus regardless of age, race or economics is family! They might be more like a crazy Uncle, but its family nevertheless.
4. Most Pastors, Sunday School Teachers, Deacons, Ministers and Missionaries are selfless servants who want to make a difference. Perhaps the names are different in different churches. Perhaps names such as church leaders or group leaders would be better. Through the years I’ve had the opportunity to interact with hundreds, probably even thousands, of these types of church leaders. And most of them are amazing, humble, selfless leaders who love Jesus and love their communities. They are touching countless lives. They are heroes! When I stand with, love with and serve with them, I am changed for the better.
5. The Local Church is Needed in all shapes and sizes. There are rural churches and urban churches. There are progressive churches and traditional churches. There are small churches and mega churches. All of them are important and all of them matter! Why? People are different; churches need to be as well! I know there is still work to do, but local congregations all over the world reflect heaven and their community at the same time. That is amazing.
6. The church is the closest representation of Jesus we have on earth. We read about Jesus in the gospels. How he lived, what he did. But physically he is gone. His presence and power lives on in the local church. The church is the body of Christ, and I can see that. When local churches love and serve their community, worship wholeheartedly, and give generously, it’s a very real picture of Jesus now.
7. Jesus said He would build His church. Jesus told Peter He would build His CHURCH (Matt. 16:18). Not a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Or a publishing company. Or the Boy Scouts (I’m an Eagle Scout and love the scouts!) However, He said He would build His Church. Jesus left one thing that will live on, the church. Lots of things matter, but there was a guy who was dead and came back to life. I’m going to follow His marching orders and help build what He’s building! The church is the one world super power. Nations rise and fall, the church is eternal!
Well, I’m addicted! Now I’m a dealer. It’s been said, “The church is the hope of the world.” I like to think of myself as a hope dealer. I pray you too can find the hope that is in Jesus and the local church.