The reasons that people leave the community of believers are numerous. It is easy to come up with a list of the problems with the Church. Today I want to flip that over and write about how you stay in the Church rather than leave.
I believe there are five things every Christian needs to last a lifetime in a local Church.
- Cling to Christ Alone – If your connection to the Church is only through the preacher, you will eventually be let down. He will move, retire, make a mistake in your eyes, or possibly even sin. One way or another, he is going to let you down.
- Receive Grace – When you mess up, the temptation is to run. You will want to go to another group of believers who do not know your flaws. The challenge is to work through your failures and not avoid them.
- Offer Forgiveness – When other people make mistakes, you will need to forgive them the way you would like to be forgiven. Other people will fail us (see #1); this will be your chance to extend grace to them. The other option is to become judgmental and throw stones at the Church. To stay in a community, you will have to learn to both receive and give grace.
- Faithful Stewardship – If you invest your time, talent, and treasure into a community of people, it makes it very difficult to walk away. Where you invest your life is where you will feel connected.
- Real Relationships – You need to have strong relationships with 5-10 people. You do not have to know everyone in the Church; rather, you need a strong network of people who are living out #1-4. Almost without exception, the people who leave the community of faith have no deep connections with other believers. You need a few people to stand in front of you, beside you and behind you through the journey of life as a Christian.
These are the most significant aids to spending a lifetime with a group of believers in a Church community. They are not a guarantee that your life in the Church will be perfect; instead they are the ingredients that make this group more like family. Give up one of them and everything changes. Live them all, and life in Church will be a more pleasing experience to you and everyone else.