I have seen it happen all too often around our house. My wife and I buy a piece of gym equipment justifying the purchase by saying, “Now we will be able to get in shape because the equipment is right here at home.” I can “just do it!” at the house and that will be the same as going to the gym. Yeah, right! In reality, it is utilized for a couple of weeks before it becomes one of the most expensive clothes dryers, or clothes hangers in the house. All that to say, it doesn’t get used for exercise.
Church is like a gym in many ways, others help you train, encourage you, keep you accountable, and the result is better health, a “fitter body.” Paul’s epistles are filled with athletic analogies, “run the race,” “keep your eyes on the prize,” and, we are to compete in the games, to receive the wreath of victory (1 Corinthians 9:25). Just like a gym, we go to church to exercise, to stretch our faith muscles, to benefit from the corporate body, to get in shape. I often hear people say, “Do I really need to go to a church? I like to worship at home. I seek after God in my own way.” My response is, “Are you really doing that?” Are you able to do that on your own or could you benefit from a little help? Or is your “church” a “clothes dryer?”
In reality, church at home can quickly progress into a social gathering or isolation. I was involved in a home group for years, and for years it was a healthy group seeking to understand the Bible. But after time we focused a lot on books, rather than the Bible, and near the end, we mostly gathered for mealtime. It had run its course. I am not saying you can’t worship God in the solitary confines of your own home alone, but I don’t think Scripture points to that as the primary expression of worship.
The author of Hebrews writes in 10:24-25, “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.” We are to meet together, not do worship on our own. The focus is on corporate worship, coming together as God’s elect, God’s people, rather than isolated worship. The gifts of the Spirit are given for the edification of the Body. The church needs your gift to be used.
The Church’s purpose is to glorify God. We do that by worshipping God. We do that by showing oneness, or unity with each other. We also do that by being missional, meaning our purpose needs to be focused outward, through evangelism, and fulfilling social needs. It is way too easy to focus inward if you are doing church alone. Although we can worship God at home, it is harder to be corporate and missional, part of the bigger picture. If you are engaged doing church at home, I would ask, “Are you helping the corporate effort of the church?”
If you are worshipping alone at home, or in a very small group and you are led of the Lord to do so then carry on. But don’t lose sight of God’s greater plan. The Church is designed to grow. Is your church growing? The Church is intended to mature. Is that happening? This is just an encouragement that it may be time to jump back in. I am not saying the Church is without its problems, but I would encourage you to be a part of the solution.
How do your spiritual muscles look? Are you sagging just a bit? Is it time to hit the “gym” again? God knows that we need the help, that’s one of the reasons we have the Church.
It’s a New Year.
Get into Spiritual Shape!
See you at the “Gym.”
[The Shepherd’s Echo is a previously published TheShepherdsPen]