Organized Christian groups have often been divided into two categories - the church, and, the para-church. As a fourth generation pastor with over 30 years of ministry experience, mostly within a local church, and as a long-time partner with FCA and FCA Endurance, I’ve got a fairly good understanding of each. It is with this in mind that I have been asked to write a short article regarding the need for the local church and each disciple’s active involvement in a local congregation. While I love FCA; it is important to understand that FCA, and therefore FCA Endurance, is by definition and design a para-church ministry, meaning it comes "alongside" the church, providing a valuable asset and resource for followers of Christ.
Church can take many different forms. I've had the joy of traveling to 30 nations and seeing the church in these places, gaining understanding on how wonderfully diverse the body of Christ is. Small church, mega-church, cell church, house church, and underground church, are just a few of the hundreds of expressions of "church." All are beautiful and we need more of them!
When I was growing up and then through the 80s and even into the early 90s, church was something that was, well, expected. In other words, if you were a follower of Jesus, you were involved regularly and fairly deeply in your local church. Yes, some were also involved in local, regional or national para-church ministries as well, but the local church was the primary spiritual family for believers.
It's now 2012 and things have changed. Our "me-centered" focus that is now heralded everywhere, i.e., "God exists for YOU," vs. the other way around, has taken full effect. The world now revolves around me! I get to choose what I do with my time and all the rest of my resources. So...church is now optional. As long as I'm getting in some good fellowship, whether it be via FCA or some other ministry, or even simply hanging out with Christian friends, I'm good to go.
Church-optional thinking is growing, but, is it Biblical? Is going for a bike ride or run with fellow believers all that God has in mind for His people in this important area of "church?" Here are a few reasons, in this day and age, to really lean into your local church while staying involved with FCA-E too!
1. The local church was the New Testament model and the writer of Hebrews warned us to not skip it. Heb. 10:25. "Do not forsake or skip meeting together as is the habit of some, but encourage one another..."
2. The local church is a place where the believer has covering and accountability. Paul appointed Elders in the churches he planted (Titus 1:5) to give oversight and protection to the believers. Take yourself out from under that type of spiritual covering and you're vulnerable to a number of bad things!
3. The local church is the primary place to find family. Though we all have believing friends in our towns, states, the USA and even around the world, God's design is for us to have a primary spiritual family with spiritual fathers, big brothers and sisters, younger family members, etc. Church IS the family of God don't forget (I Tim. 5:1-2)
4. Worship, prayer, teaching, discipleship and the sacraments are also purposes for believers to be in the church. All of these are obviously Biblical and essential for our spiritual growth.
5. Fellowship. This, among some other things, is what FCA-E is so good at. It provides opportunities for fellowship, relationship and fun with those who are like minded in spiritual matters and also in recreational interests. Wonderful! I love that aspect of FCA-E. But, don't substitute that, for the church. FCA will tell you they are not the church and are not supposed to be someone's "church."
So, I really encourage you in your involvement with FCA-E and it's great mission! I'm SO glad I'm involved. But, be careful that you don't allow that to become your church. Find a good church if you don't have one and get involved by giving, serving, praying and attending regularly, while, at the same time, being part of the FCA-E Team. What a great partnership! FCA-E and the local church. That's good stuff!
Posted on Tue, July 3, 2012
by Linc Murdoch filed under