We live in the digital age. Information has never been more readily available. If I don’t know something, my kids ask me to check with ‘Google’. It is a time when we have podcasts (yes, we have one at PursuitsofGod!), blogs, online sermons and even conference livestreams! We can find wonderful teaching at the press of a button and sometimes, in our local churches we aren’t listening to preachers with the same platform, the same level of skill or even the same knowledge as some of these world-renowned preachers. So surely, as we contemplate all of this, it is easy to question whether the local church is becoming ‘outdated’. Perhaps we can actually stay at home on a Sunday morning, enjoy a nice sleep in, listen to some great praise and worship music, followed by some inspiring message and we’ve ‘done’ church for the week without having to get out of our pyjamas?!
While all of this sounds pretty tempting at times, and I’ve heard various women share with me they are ‘opting out’ of the local church, trading it for an online counterpart, I turn to the pages of Hebrews where in Chapter 10 the writer pleads with us:
“23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 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.”
In these verses, we see the local church is so much more than just a sermon, or a bunch of songs (which are all wonderful!), they also comprise the relationships- us caring for others, others caring for us. In community, we find the encouragement our souls needs to press on and in to this wonderful God we serve. In the local church, we are given the opportunity to stir up one another to love and good works. In the gathering, the coming together, we do life together. We see each other as we are- devoid of the attractive anonymity and superficial layers online communities allow- and we can encourage each other in this.
At the start of this year, I really felt a renewed sense of the importance of the local church and investing in it. I spend lots of my time online, I struggle with the ability to get lost in the online social media platforms I am a member of, I love the gift of online sermons and blogs and podcasts that encourage my soul. But in it all, nothing replaces the local church. With all her motley, loveable, sometimes a little frustrating members, there is nothing quite so beautiful as the local church, gathering week by week to encourage one another, love one another and share the gifts God has given for the church through the individual, worshipping our holy God.
Wherever you may be in your church life, whatever season you find yourself in, may you know the joy that can be found in growing together in a face-to-face church community. If you are struggling with the urge to ‘opt out,’ may I encourage you to not neglect to meet together, for Jesus is at work in and through his church. How can you be an encouragement? Just as we read in Ephesians 5: 25-27 Jesus so loved the church he:
“…gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”
Be encouraged today friend, Jesus is at work and the place he has ordained for you to grow and be encouraged and stirred up is the local church. Love her just as he loves her.