A Need to Belong
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I recently signed up to be a sales representative for a popular makeup company. I paid the registration fee and was given a truck-load of brochures to begin my campaign. My confidence has soared as I have collected sales and pondered on the extra income that is sure to come in. There is only one problem. My online account has not been activated. For some unknown reason, we have been unable to get me signed into the database. Without this critical aspect, I am a representative without a place do a business. My restlessness grows because I feel largely incomplete. Without a direct line to the corporation and an account with my name on it, all the sales I have accumulated will not matter and my time spent will have been useless. Have you ever felt that incomplete sense of needing to belong?
Someone once asked me, “Why do I need to go to church if I already believe in God? Why does anyone need church?” I have noticed that having a church is a lot like having a central database. I can wear a cross around my neck and do all the things that good Christians do. I can read my Bible for hours and quote scripture perfectly by chapter and verse. (I haven’t actually gotten this far yet, but I’m trying!) Yet, without a home base, a place to gather and be accounted for, I am nothing more than a representative without a place to do business. Much like selling the merchandise in my catalogs, going to church makes me feel useful. I have a job to do. I am productive and people are in need of my services. My fellow brothers and sisters are so valuable to me! They give me purpose, incentive to keep doing what I am good at, and encouragement when I feel insignificant. I have also noticed that in the process of getting out and selling my wares I am more focused on those around me. Suddenly I am more interested in the needs of others and am looking for ways to add a little something more to their life. A central meeting place is vital to my well being. Not only am I using the gifts that God gave me, I am fulfilling a command straight out of scripture.
When Paul was speaking to the Hebrews, this issue must have been pressing, even back then. “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25
Meeting together on a regular basis is good for our souls. As a corporate body, we are bound to each other like a marriage. We can lift each other up, spur on another on toward greatness, and hold each other up when we don’t have the strength to stand on our own. For many of us, our church may be the only real family we’ll ever have. Broken homes seem to be more the rule rather than the exception in today’s society. Fifty years ago, it was unheard of take a relative to court. Today it happens all the time. People are unscrupulous in their dealings and seem to have no regard for morals, even within their own families. The one thing I have noticed about being rooted in a church is that it is a place that is safe, free from judgment and ridicule, and very, very forgiving.
Of course like any family, the church is not without its share of freaks and weirdos. Dishonesty is no respecter of race, religion, size, shape, or building. Like visiting the girlfriend’s relatives for the first time, one may wonder what kind of whacked out, nutcase mess they’ve stumbled upon. The plain truth is that sometimes we all have to sort through a few rotten apples before we find the good, tasty fruit hidden beneath. It may take a while but the right family is out there.
So what are some things to look for if you are seeking to find a good church? According to a Dr. Richard Krejcir, there are twelve key characteristics of a healthy church. Here are just a few of them. First and foremost, you need to find a church that preaches the full Gospel of Christ. Watered down or compromised will not cut it. A good church preaches the truth, plain and simple. If you happen to be unsure of whether they are preaching sound doctrine or not, bring your Bible. If they are reading straight from the text and the preacher’s words line up with the scripture read, all is well. Another thing to look for is powerful, impacting worship. Worship does not have to be an elaborate setup. As long as it comes from the heart and stirs the spirit within, it qualifies. The word that comes to my mind is passion. If the worship team or the music itself is full of passion, that is a good sign.
Speaking of passion, a church that is passionate for Jesus is another characteristic of health and wholeness. Look for a place that genuinely loves the Lord and spreads that love to its members, its visitors, and to its Creator. Love, joy, peace, and all the rest of the fruits of the Spirit must be present in order to signify a healthy church. Prayer and discipleship are also important. The old cliché still rings true. A church that prays together stays together. A healthy prayer life, a thriving discipleship program, and good, strong leadership are all signs of a healthy and vibrant church.
Looking for a church home can be a daunting task, especially if one has been severely wounded in the past. The idea of setting foot inside a place that may or may not welcome you or accept you can be unnerving to say the least. The thing to remember is that God loved you first. If you are honestly seeking after Him, He will reward you for your efforts. He will guide you to the place that is right for you. Never give up in your searching, always believe that He has your best interests at heart, and know that His love covers over a multitude of sins. He is waiting to receive you. Are you ready for Him?
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Thanks for your comments, Bob. I am sorry if I was not clear on my stance about worship. I did not say that worship must be passionate, I simply stated that passion amid worship is a good thing. Worship is designed to stir the spirit and bring us into a deeper fellowship with the Lord. If passion is present, we are more inclined to communicate on a deeper level with God. Passion is just one aspect of worship and does not fulfill or negate the overall experience.
Good analogy. I have an issue about you saying worship must be passionate. Passion without Truth is superficial emotionalism. The Father seeks those who worship in spirit and in Truth. Anything less is like the Jews of old having zeal without knowledge. A Do-Nothing Machine.