“If every church member was like me what sort of church would our church be?” This is the translation of a notice which is displayed in an Italian church building. It is striking in how it directly challenges the quality of our lives and commitment to “our church”. So how is it with our commitment to Feltham Evangelical Church?
Why is it, though, that we should bother about church? The main reason is that God is interested in the church. In Old Testament times God chose to give Himself a special place on earth at Jerusalem. It was the place He delighted in. Today, God’s special place is not Jerusalem (nor any other place or building), but it is the local church. Paul affirms this when in 1 Tim 3:16 he refers to the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. Remember,also, the words of Jesus: I will build my church and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it (Matt 16:18b).
In considering our attitude to church it is interesting to remember that of Nehemiah. When Hanani and other men from Judah reported about Jerusalem that the survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire. So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven (Neh. 1:3b-4). In similar vein the state of the local church should affect us. Note also that Nehemiah did not just respond to the matter with feelings, fasting and prayer, he got on and acted. He showed his commitment to Jerusalem by going and seeking to rebuild the the walls. And in getting the re-building going he influenced others to get involved in this mighty work for God.
So how is it with us? So many of us see all the defects of “our church” and complain that this and that is not right. But where is the fasting / prayer and where is the action. Are we willing to put ourselves out to aid the cause of Christ in “our church” or do we just lob destructive missiles from our cozy bunkers where we talk about the poor preaching, the lack of zeal of others, the fact that others are are not friendly etc etc.. And whilst criticizing “this, that and the other” we do nothing to help. To a greater or lesser extent we are all either contributing to the building up of the church or the destruction of the church. We so easily think about what we are getting out of the church. However our focus should rather be upon what we are putting into the church.
Remember as well the great truth of human experience is that we are all influencing one another for good or ill. Our life, our demeanour, our words, our conduct they all influence other people in the church. Paul speaks of Hymaneus and Philetus as having a message which spreads like cancer (2 Tim. 2:16). Will we have a cancerous affect on the church? Remember cancer, unless checked, always spreads and destroys life. Rather we should seek to heed the exhortation of Paul to Timothy to “be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12).
The truth of scripture then informs us that we should each be committed to a local church fellowship. We should then support that church through prayer and involvement in its life and work. Re-enforcement for how important this is comes in 1 Cor 3.
Paul is speaking to the Corinthians as local church. In vv10-11 he speaks of how he was involved in laying the foundation of the church at Corinth and that foundation is Jesus Christ. We note that every true church is built on Jesus Christ. A foundation must be built on though and Paul says that each one take heed how he builds on it. There is a day yet to come when, like the Corinthians, we will be examined for what we have put in to the local church; that is the day when we must appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Are we building into the church that which will endure for God (gold, silver or precious stones) or are we building in that which will be burnt up and be destroyed (wood, hay and stubble)? In that day of judgment those faithful in their commitment to the local church will receive a reward (see 1 Cor 3:14). However, those who have used the church for selfish ends will retain their salvation (which can never be taken away), but they will be saved through fire; he will suffer loss (1 Cor 3:15b)
How is it then with us? We should be acting now in anticipation of that day. Remember in all this that God is interested in motives. Matt 6:1-18 speaks about those who have engaged in spiritual activity (giving, praying and fasting), but that has all been for show. Such people have their reward now and have nothing left for the future. God knows the heart.
Let us then be thoughtful about our attitude to Feltham Evangelical Church. Our commitment (or lack thereof) does not just have consequences now, it has consequences for the future judgment!
(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter of December 2006)