I began serving at church at an early age, I believe 12 years old. My parents were both heavily involved in the church when I was growing up. We would go to church whenever the doors were open. We got there early and we left late. My friends were all from church and they are still close friends of mine to this day. Church was the heartbeat of my family’s life.
When I grew up and left my home town for California—2000 miles away—I struggled with knowing where to go to church and how to really get involved. I ended up having a season in my life that was completely devoted to personal growth and reflection as I shied away from attending church every sunday, morning and night, and whatever weekday there was a service.
I counted both times in my life as refreshing and ultimately leading to a closer walk with my Savior. Now that I am through with college and into my adult life, I have again moved to a different state and am once again church shopping. It seemed like a great time to do some research on what church is really meant to do, how often I should go, and how involved I should be.
Acts is one of the main books in the Bible that talks about the church. This is where the beginnings of the church are written down. Thanks to Paul, Barnabus, Mark, and so many other missionaries and disciples of Jesus, the church grew in exponential numbers during this time in history. The whole book of Acts is brimming with stories, miracles, and guidance for the church. One of the most important things about Acts and the following books of Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, and Thessalonians is that each “church” was labeled according to their locale. For example, the church of Corinth referred to every believer in the city of Corinth. So the easy part is knowing that the church is actually a community of people, not a building or an obligation.
The church is actually a community of people, not a building or an obligation.
Now to the hard part: what is the church supposed to do, and what is your personal role in it? This part is an easy answer and is repeated throughout Scripture, but it is a difficult application. 1 Corinthians is one of the best studies on how the church should act. Paul is adamant that their church should not have divisions (1 Cor. 1:10-17). Unfortunately, that is one of the biggest problems with the modern church. As one part of a large body, your individual role should be to make peace. Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matt. 5:9). Paul says that working together as one unit is the best aspect of the church. Knowing that you all have the Spirit of the Lord is what makes you kindred and should overcome any divisions within the church. This is a hard concept to fully practice, but it is what a church ought to look like.
1 Corinthians 12 is devoted purely to each individual’s part of the church. Paul acknowledges that each person, each family, and even each neighborhood may have some strengths and some weaknesses, but each person brings to the table something that was not there before. It is important to bring whatever you have to the church. Even if you are only good at painting your nails, that can be useful for some kind of ministry at your church. Your weakness will be offset by someone else’s strength. This give and take, generosity, and community is a very important part of the church.
Now what about too much involvement in the church? This becomes a huge issue for pastors and teachers. I have been at that point before as a burned out church goer, and it is draining. In Galatians 6:9, Paul tells us to not grow weary in doing good, and we must always remember a key part of the Old Testament is to rest. Not only did God give us an example in the creation story where he rested on the seventh day (Gen. 2:2-3), but there is a constant reminder in the stories of Noah, Abraham, Joshua, Jacob, and the history of Israel that rest is important. That is why there are little things called “sabbaticals” that teachers often take and that some churches infuse into their systems. I recently visited a church whose head pastor was about to take a 3 month sabbatical to recharge and come back with a refreshed mind and heart. Know that even if you play a vital role in your church, you should not forgo resting from it from time to time.
In hindsight, after all my research, I found out why the hyper-involved season and the isolation season of my life were both refreshing and good for me. God calls us to be a part of our community and to love and respect one another, but he also enjoys our personal journeys with him. Either way, time spent with the Lord and with his people is a valuable and important activity that we should continuously be a part of.