“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 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.” Heb 10:24-25
Relationships can be messy. If you put two sinners in a room together, there will inevitably be conflict (cf. James 4:1-4). If you fill the room up with sinners and put a steeple on top, you have a church… and more conflict. Though we are saved sinners, though we are forgiven sinners, though we are justified sinners, we are, nevertheless, still sinners. The Church, therefore, will never be perfect this side of eternity. Unfortunately, many have discovered this the hard way. Over the past 15 years of ministry, I have met men and women who have become disillusioned by the local church. Because of the hurt, cynicism, and bitterness they see little to no value in the corporate worship gathering. “Going to church” almost feels legalistic if not altogether burdensome.
I get it. Believe it or not, I’ve been there too. But here’s the thing: Our need for corporate worship will always be greater than whatever ecclesiastical sin we’ve had to endure. The local church is actually a really good thing. Thus, the Hebrew writer exhorts us to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…” Far from a legalistic command to “go to church,” vv. 24-25 gives to us an exhortation to “stir up one another to love and good works” and to “encourage one another.” I’ve never met a single person who was “too encouraged.” Have you?
The fact is, I need the local church. I need to be reminded of the Gospel and the finished work of Christ. I need to be reminded that my sins were nailed to a cross and I now stand before God un-condemned. I need to be reminded that God loves me and his faithfulness towards me is forever and always. I need to be reminded to rest in the Word of God. I need to be reminded that I exist to worship the God of glory. I need to be reminded that grace is amazing. I need to be reminded that no matter how dark the night gets, God is sovereign and loving and works all things to his glory and my good. Yes, the church is where I am to be encouraged and edified and discipled and loved and taught. The local church is my tribe, my community, my family. I need the local church. You need the local church.
Of course, I realize that this is often not the experience for those who have been hurt. For that, I deeply mourn. I’m so sorry for whatever you may have gone through. But, I want you to be encouraged. Churches are people; And people are sinners; And sin can leave bruises on the soul. But the Church is not your Savior. Jesus is your Savior, and He is the Head of the Church (cf. Col 1:18). So, get plugged in. Engage. Grow. Learn. Serve. Worship. Relationships can sometimes be messy. Just expect it. And just know that the church isn’t perfect…yet.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Pastor Matthew S. Rickett