The Church is made of regenerate, born-again believers who are saved by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. In the midst of a confused Christian culture the church has been misrepresented grossly. It is not the outsiders fault that they have a bad definition of what the church is. The church needs to look within to see where it went wrong and reform from there. When I was in high school I was drawn by the grace of God and it pleased Him to reveal His Son to me. From there I have been seeking to know more about Him which has driven me to love Him better and better. This is why I write about the local church.
I grew up assuming a lot of wrong things about how the church should operate without considering the Word of God. I was so caught up in trusting man that I failed to consult the sufficient Word of God. Just like myself, many are never taught and default to going on with how the church does things, even if it is contrary to the Bible. The Bible is the book for me and it is the book for the Christian who desires to know about the church. God has been gracious to me on this adventure to know His church and know my responsibilities as a Christian.
As I grew up in the church in high school my family doctor also became my Sunday school teacher. Dr. Barber taught me what discipleship looked like. He guided me through understanding how to develop a proper understanding of who God is according to His word. He taught me why I was a Southern Baptist. And he taught me church history. We went through the book of 1 Peter together. He invited me into his home to have dinner and it was there that I was able to watch him be a father and a husband. It amazed me what the Lord had led me to. I was able to watch this man live out his faith. He not only taught me good theology, but he practiced it! Though he moved to Tennessee with his family, he taught me so much about the church, theology, and being a devoted dad and husband.
After he left I began getting more involved in the Wesley Foundation during college. I actually got involved in a few campus ministries like the Baptist Collegiate Ministry and Campus Crusade. I also went to my church’s Bible study, and also went to another church’s college Bible study. I was wearing myself thin. I thought getting involved in a dozen Bible studies would increase my spiritual growth, but it did the opposite.
I was excited to be involved in campus ministry. There were students there my age, they were Christians, and they wanted to be my friend. The campus ministries were awesome! They had fun events, free food, and wanted me to be apart of their ministry. I mean my church wasn’t offering much. I was a college student. I wasn’t young enough to be in an adult Sunday school class, and I was too old to be in youth group. I felt like I didn’t fit in at all. Now my church did switch things around to offer a class that catered to my age, but in my young, naive college kid mind the campus ministry met all my needs. If I can recall correctly, every night of the week I was involved in some type of campus ministry program. I went to three worship services, a couple of Bible studies, and one event nearly every week. At the time it seemed like being involved in campus ministry was enough. Therefore, I did what any college Christian student think’s best. I used my Saturday nights to stay up super late because I didn’t need to go to church in the morning. I had campus ministries I could depend on. That was my local church. I mean I worshipped, I heard someone talk about God, and I was told to give some dollars to the ministry I was at. It worked! This is what college students coming from hard families who force their kids to go to church dream about! And sadly I took part in this idea for a semester. Then I woke up. I sought friends in my life who were attached to a local church in the area. I asked them why they were excited about their church. First of all, it started with a college student Bible study taught by this Middle Eastern guy who owned a stellar restaurant in the town. They were going through book of Hebrews. Whoa! I had only read through the book of the Bible on my own. I had never studied through a book with a group of students. So this group was added to my other time consuming activities on top of a 15-hour class load. I don’t know how I did it all.
Within the year of going to that college Bible study I started to drift from my own church. I was so involved with another campus ministry that I really didn’t have time for the church. Even though I taught the children during the big service at church, I only went to the actual church service maybe twice a month for a semester. I don’t know how I got away with slacking. But I was involved and I was a leader and no one likes to run off free labor.
Going into my final semester at Tech, I was on staff at a college ministry, working with my home church in their children’s ministry, and trying to get more involved in the church where I was attending their college Bible study. Then came when the Lord opened my eyes to committing to one church and one church only. How did I ever miss this? Well it wasn’t emphasized that much that I can recall. The local church was important as long as you were doing something and people were coming. But it was never brought to my attention that the church was ordained as God’s only Bride. Nothing else can replace her. Not a college campus ministry, a para-church ministry, a non-profit ministry, nothing. God has specially designed and ordered the church as His Bride that He laid His life down for. Now people would agree: “Aren’t we the people the church and not the building?” Correct, however, the campus ministry was not ever intended to imitate the Church. It was established as an evangelism center for college campuses. You can find out more about the purpose of para-church ministries here. The spring after I graduated college I was asked to join a group of young men to study about the fundamentals of faith and what are some marks of a healthy church. I wasn’t yet a member, but the elders were kind enough to ask me to join them. A few months before I approached the college guy at CrossLife, Marwan, to help me to decide if I should join CrossLife by transferring my membership from the current church I was serving at. This process took several months, but the Lord showed me through Marwan’s witness that the local church is “a pillar and buttress of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15) I needed to fully commit myself to one body.
It has been three years since I have been out of college and working my 40+ hours a week while taking a few seminary classes online through Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. It is funny that when people ask me “what do you do at your church?” I tell them I try to be a faithful church member. Why? Why don’t I just pay my tithes, say some hellos, and go to my favorite Sunday restaurant on the Lord’s Day after the service? Because the God who saved me set me apart to specifically be sanctified in the church. Before grace, before sin entered the world, before I was created God had in His omnipotent, all-knowing mind that the Christian would need the Church. In Hebrews 10:25 it says not to neglect meeting together as do some. This is a command for us to follow. But why? To encourage each other for the Day that is drawing near. The church is set apart not set aside like a lot of Christians do. There are no church substitutes. There is only the One Bride of Christ. Now you can try to find something that imitates it or you can use the excuse that you are the church; therefore, you can have church at home, on the deer stand, or on the golf course. But that isn’t biblical church, and you may not be a biblical Christian. The Bride of Christ is the church and there is no other.
One last word: if you are a college student and you are struggling with sin and your spiritual growth has come to a halt. Consider your ways, is the campus ministry you are pouring all your hours into each week pulling you away from the church or pointing you to the church?