It seems today that an emphasis on belonging to a local congregation of Christians is under-emphasized in the U.S. We live in a consumer culture, one that is always looking for the next big thing. For instance, the iPhone 6 was just announced to much fanfare despite the fact that it’s not too different from the previous version of the iPhone released just 2 years ago. We are trained by our culture to never be satisfied with what we have now.
I think that we’ve allowed this mentality to seep into how we think about the church. We don’t look for a local church with an eye towards staying there and serving with our gifts and money. We try to find a church based on consumeristic ideals: Does the music fit me? Is the atmosphere what I’m looking for? What are the small groups like? It’s not dissimilar from how we shop for a new car: What features does it come with? Do I like the color? What about gas mileage?
I think that we need to have a shift in our thinking about the church from how we can benefit from it to how we can best serve it.
The way our generation tends to approach church is very much a self-centered approach. The church is not an institution designed to fit our desires, but an institution that exists to mold us into Christlikeness. The posture of the Christian should not be one that is oriented to the self but is oriented towards loving others. I think that this is only possible in a local church where we know and are known, where others can speak into our lives because they do life together with us.
The local church is the most powerful institution on earth. It is, after all, the local body of believers which actually carries out the mission of God to evangelize and disciple. It is the local body of believers that trains leaders and pastors in righteousness. It is within a local body of believers that the gospel is preached on a weekly basis and where the sacraments are administered.
When I think of my own future ministry as a pastor I prefer to think of joining a congregation and pastoring at that church until I’m too old to pastor anymore. It is my hope that our generation stops thinking of the church as consumeristic culture has taught us. It is my hope that church becomes our primary source of community rather than something we do once or twice a week. I hope that we start intentionally planting ourselves in congregations with an eye towards staying there as long as possible.