Why is being part of a church important? (Part 3)

Romans 1:11-13

For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord. 12 When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.

13 I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to visit you, but I was prevented until now. I want to work among you and see spiritual fruit, just as I have seen among other Gentiles.

Spiritual growth and encouragement are the final reasons that we find it important to belong to a local church as far as this passage of Scripture is concerned. Paul desired to be with the Roman believers because they shared a right relationship with God through Jesus like he did but also to minister to them. Paul desired to use a spiritual gift in dependence on the Holy Spirit, working effectively through his efforts to help them grow strong in the Lord. Paul has more to say about serving one another with spiritual gifts in Romans 12; for now, though, let’s look at God’s purpose of us serving one another, in dependence on the Spirit, with the abilities given to us by the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:7

A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.

To help each other do what?

Ephesians 4: 16

He (Christ) makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

In these other letters written by Paul, we see that every believer has a spiritual gift entrusted to them to help other believers grow in their faith, becoming more and more like Christ. The Apostle metaphorically refers to the body of Christ as a physical body and its members as body parts to describe the unity among diversity in local churches and the universal Church. When each part of the body functions properly, it helps the body mature and remain healthy. For Christians, we are to use our spiritual gift to serve one another so that through our serving, others become more like Jesus, and their faith becomes more robust.

Also, notice in Ephesians 4:16 that Christ makes the whole body fit together perfectly. God has you in the local church to serve in a specific way, according to His plan, for your joy and the benefit of others. By not operating within the local church, you are stunting the growth in others as you withhold the spiritual gift given and entrusted to you by Jesus. A former pastor of Cornerstone once said that “We look most like Jesus when we are serving.” I would say that he is correct in this statement, for the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). May we follow our Lord’s example and serve others, in dependence upon the Spirit, to help others become more like Jesus, growing strong in Him, within our local gatherings.

One last thought concerning the importance of being a part of a local church for spiritual growth; I have focused much attention on the benefits others receive if we serve others like Jesus. However, we also grow stronger in the Lord by helping others with our spiritual gift. The Holy Spirit can reveal areas that still need His refining as we serve others. Areas like selfish attitudes, pride, and doing ministry in our own strength are exposed. Service reveals attitudes that would continue to reside unknowingly underneath the surface if we didn’t put ourselves in a place of ministry.

Not only does service refine our character to be more Christlike, but it also allows us to help others grow in their faith. If one has the gift of teaching, the time in preparation helps them grow in the Lord and will even energize them simultaneously. Those with the gift of administration take a crushing weight off of those who may have the gift of teaching but struggle in administration. The result of both people using their gifts to serve the body well means that the teacher has more time to prepare in God’s presence. Thus the administrator benefits from the teaching of the Word that could be done because the teacher was able to focus on preparation and teaching! The administrator also grows in their faith as they exercise their spiritual gift and sees God working in them and through them while serving.

One last thought on this topic of serving others with our spiritual gift, the Greek verb translated “to serve” is always used in the New Testament of religious service, so it is sometimes translated as “worship.” Devoted, pure, and heart-felt ministry is one of our ways to worship our worthy God.

Being a part of a local church is essential for spiritual growth but also for encouragement. Paul wanted to encourage the believers in Rome by using his spiritual gift, and he also desired to be motivated by them. Paul expressing his desire to benefit from being in the Romans’ presence reminds us that pastors are people too. We want to encourage and strengthen others in their faith when we gather with other believers. Still, we have room to grow in our faith and experience seasons of discouragement, disappointment, and doubt, requiring a brother or sister to use their gift to help us faithfully.

God says that He will exalt the humble and oppose the proud. One reason that Paul was used by God mightily in reaching the Gentiles was because of his humble dependence upon Christ and His power in him. His desire to receive encouragement and comfort from the Roman believers shows us that he didn’t think he was above being able to benefit from other believers spiritually. Like any great theologian, Paul knew that any teaching, revelation, or ministry success only because God chose to reveal such truth or move through him powerfully. He had his sights set on spiritual perfection but was aware that he had not attained it yet (Philippians 3:12-14) thus, he was open to the Lord using anyone to help him inch ever closer to Christ’s example this side of eternity.

I started watching a TV show on Netflix called, The Toys That Made Us. I was very familiar with the episodes about TMNT, Power Rangers, and Wrestling Action Figures, as they were toys I spent hours playing with as a kid. However, I was surprised not to see an episode on Hot Wheels! One of my favorite products involving Hot Wheels was a race track with a device to propel miniature cars through a curving and looping course. As the vehicle neared the finish/start point of the track, it slowed, and if not for the spinning wheels that it would come in contact with just in time, it would have sputtered to a stop. Yet, once it ran through the gauntlet of spinning wheels, the car would receive a fresh supply of force, allowing it to have the momentum and speed to continue traveling around the course until you decided to take it off or turn off the battery switch to the off position.

Gathering with other believers allows God to use a brother or sister in Christ to encourage or strengthen us in our faith. A kind word, generous gesture, a call, a written note or text received, a timely sermon or song of worship, or another believer simply praying with us as we share a problem can be what our soul needs to receive strength, encouragement, or confirmation for our lives. The same goes for our brothers and sisters in Christ too. No wonder why Paul would later urge the Romans that,

Romans 12:8a

if your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging.

From early on, God planned for local churches to be places where His people could grow spiritually and be encouraged to keep faithful, even during seasons of difficulty, doubt, or uncertainty. When it comes to the church that we call home, may we be faithful in serving others so that we may help them grow in their faith and be refined in our faith. May the Lord protect us from becoming proud, thinking that our faith cannot benefit from any one brother or sister in Christ. Finally, let us not remove ourselves from the people that the Holy Spirit can use to encourage us to remain faithful and steadfast in our relationship with Jesus as His follower.

So if you are part of a local body, are you serving? Why or why not? If not, go ahead and begin the needed steps to help. Depending on the size of the church, you might be able to ask the pastor where you can serve, check the website, or go to something like a next steps table in the church’s foyer. Whatever the process is, find out if you don’t know what it is, and if you know, what are you waiting for? Serving provides an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to continue His transformation of our lives and for Him to use us in strengthening and encouraging others too! If you are in between churches or want to start attending church for the first time and are in or near High Point, NC, please be our guest one Sunday morning!

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