By Whitney Capps
A couple of years ago I found myself at a point in my life where my church was going through a tough season and I was involved in multiple parachurch organizations.
I had the privilege of being mentored and discipled by people in wonderful ministries.
I love Jesus, so I thought, Surely it’s okay for me to focus on one or more of these other things instead of pouring myself into the local church.
I went to Scripture thinking it would justify my thinking, but I found the opposite.
I was confronted with this truth: If I want to change the world and serve the kingdom, I needed to serve my church.
We’re not individually responsible for changing the kingdom, but collectively, the church is God’s plan for rescuing a lost and dying world.
Even when it’s grueling—even when we want to run away and do some other sort of ministry—the local church is our calling. Here are six encouragements to stay the course in God’s plan for His people.
1. Church crucifies our flesh.
We get mad about superficial things. Our churches aren’t perfect, and perfection isn’t the expectation for membership. Jesus didn’t ask us to be united in our perfection, but in the gospel.
When imperfect people are gathered, there will be conflict. And in those seasons of difficulty, sometimes we’re praying for peace in our church when God is really just asking us to be crucified.
2. Church is the place that helps build the right kind of community.
Acts chapter two is held up as a vivid picture of what we think a healthy church should look like—that believers were magically on the same page and had everything in common.
But earlier in the chapter, there’s an interesting dynamic that’s easy to miss. We discover there were people gathered in the city from every nation and tongue. The diversity here is significant.
How is it that within one chapter we have people who don’t even speak the same language and later they have everything in common?
The local church isn’t built on shared interests; it’s built on the gospel of Jesus Christ, which unites us.
We must build our churches and communities on the one thing that matters: Jesus. The church helps build the right kind of community.
The church is not only where we get to live out gospel-based unity; we also get to put it on display for the world to see.
3. Church un-complicates accountability.
When we’re committed to the local church, people actually truly know us because we’ve invited them in close. And we’ve watched them live their life up close.
I have friends who can call and say, “Hey, I see this pattern showing up in your life. Let’s talk about that.”
It’s not pleasant, and it doesn’t always feel good. But we need to be in relationship with people who love Jesus more than they love us—people who are more committed to Jesus than they are to us.
For every time I wanted to quit and every time I showed up against every inclination of isolation, God was faithful to work in every instance of obedience to serve and live with His church.
When we endure in our local churches through uncomfortable times, not only are we pulling one another along, but we’re also giving testimony that the gospel actually works.
4. The church requires perseverance.
We’re going to regularly want to quit church (though there are biblical reasons to leave a local church for another). We’ll convince ourselves we’ll have it better if we just find another congregation to be part of.
But in most cases this is a lie we believe, and in doing so, we deceive ourselves about why we’re even in our local church. To stay the course is going to require perseverance.
5. The church cultivates our sanctification.
When we’re made alive in Christ, we’re made holy. We are made righteous. There’s another word for it. He can also be called our justification.
It means I had a massive amount of debt, and because of the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ, that debt is cleared.
We’re called to grow in holiness. We’re called over and over and over in the New Testament to walk in sanctification to become mature believers.
The call of the gospel is for you and I to die to ourselves; where that happens is in the context of the local church.
6. The church develops us as disciple makers.
This is easy to miss—particularly in the culture that we live in because social media and other platforms lead us to believe all ministry can be done on a larger scale.
We believe the “likes” and “shares” from the digital community are what makes disciples.
But making disciples requires us to live with one another up close and to glean from one another the truth that we not only teach, but hopefully live in our private and one-on-one lives.
If you’re anything like me, you often get tired of the church, church people, and everything that goes along with it. We all grow weary of the imperfections of the church on this side of eternity.
As the church, we’re the bride of Christ—and we’re also the bridesmaids. Let’s straighten her dress. Let’s help her flip her veil. Let’s stop taking potshots at her.
And let’s recommit ourselves to the labor—the wonderful, sometimes terrible, glorious work set before us.
WHITNEY CAPPS (@whitneycapps) is a national speaker for Proverbs 31 Ministries and a writer for the new Bible app First 5, reaching more than 1,000,000 people daily. As a Bible study geek, Whitney’s delight is to dig into God’s Word for profound yet practical truth. She is the author of Sick of Me and group Bible study We Over Me,