Why I’m Committed to the Local Church

If God loves the Church, then we should too


I met her via e-mail. Beth was about my age with teenage kids and aging parents. She explained that God had revolutionized her life since she and her family started attending Christ Community Church (CCC) six months earlier. She had stopped going to church but re-found Christ when she came to CCC. The vibrant worship and warm people had thawed her heart toward God.

She e-mailed me because she wanted me to talk with her 95-year-old grandma. She wasn’t sure that Grandma understood the good news of Jesus—and at 95, the clock was ticking.

I met five members of Beth’s family in the church atrium. Her teenage daughter, Amanda, told me she came to faith in Christ through our student ministry and was baptized in October. Aunt Kelly and Uncle Bert were believers before coming to CCC, but Kelly expressed, “I have never heard the Bible taught like THAT! I can understand it, and it changes my life!”

Then there was Grandma Eve. At 95, her heart was open. All it took was a few key questions and explanation of the good news, and she said, “That’s me! I want it!” So together, right there in the atrium, the six of us prayed together. Eve had crossed the line from death to life. And all of heaven threw a party with Eve’s name on the banner.

I’ll never get enough of this: four generations, new faith, growing in Christ, renewal, lightbulbs coming on, and lives changing. Moments like these are why I love the church. These five people are on a new trajectory that I pray will last four more generations.

He First Loved Us

I didn’t always love the church. I thought it was sluggish, boring, ineffective, boring, unimaginative, and self-conflicted. And did I mention boring?

Photo courtesy of Christ Community Church

All of that changed when God called me to church ministry. I reluctantly left my exciting campus ministry job and joined the staff at Willow Creek Community Church in the Chicago suburbs and later at CCC, an Alliance church in Omaha. These two experiences revolutionized my impression of the local church, and I fell in love.

I fell in love with God’s bride, whom He loves. To God, the church is beautiful. He died for her. He is passionate about her. If God loves the church, then we should too—warts and all.

Let me give you five reasons why I’m committed to the local church.

1. The church is God’s plan A to reach a lost world. There is no plan B.

When Jesus mobilized His disciples to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8), He invited them to do it as a community, knowing that within months that community would multiply to 5,000+ people. When the church sent out Paul and Barnabas to reach the Mediterranean basin (Acts 13:1–2), they went from city to city planting churches.

When you look around the world at peoples who have been reached with the gospel, the common factor is the church—the local church. It is God’s Plan A.

People in the church are not attendees. If they know Jesus, they are witnesses to their offices, their families, their marketplaces, or their teams. Each disciple has the badge of an ambassador of the King to press back the darkness and bring the light.

We are God’s plan to tell others that death has been defeated and life with God is available to all who believe. We are God’s Plan A to reach a lost world.

A church might be big or small, expressive or reverent, growing or plateaued, urban or rural, but every time, it is filled with the only team God has called to reach the world. His mission is to reach people, villages, and cities. Every time, the church is at the center of making that happen.

2. The church is the place where lives get revolutionized.

I always cry when we do baptisms at church. Whether it is one person or 500, each baptism is precious to God and represents a spiritual revolution. God is not about turning bad little boys and girls into good little boys and girls. He is about taking dead things and making them alive. In the wake of this new life, anything is possible.

Photo courtesy of Christ Community Church

The big splashy stuff is not what excites me about the church. It is the micro-level life change. Because of the Holy Spirit, I have seen life stories rewritten in the church.

  • Kevin was addicted and suicidal; he found Jesus, and now he runs renewal ministries.
  • Bart and Cheryl came to church on the brink of divorce. When they put Jesus in the middle of their marriage, they gained new habits, new perspective. Today they have a thriving marriage.
  • Ron came for healing prayer with a large cancerous mass on his tongue. When he showed up at the doctor for surgery the next week, the mass was gone with no trace.
  • Andy walked into my “skeptics” class as an atheist. Six years later he leads a prevailing apologetics ministry with hundreds of people.
  • Jim visited my office with serious anger issues that were leading him to abuse his kids. He found healing for his past and spiritual power to combat his anger and has become a loving, supportive dad and amazing volunteer.
  • Carey was a regular kid in the high-school ministry who dreamed of being a nurse. God surprised her by calling her to be a nurse in Africa and to be a missionary to those who have never heard His name before.

The church finds people broken by our sin-scarred world, invites Jesus to do His revolutionary work, and joins Him in the process of miraculous transformation. I am committed to the church because Jesus changes people there.

3. The church is practice for the new heaven and new earth.

God’s Kingdom will come in its fullness one day. Until then, we have a bunch of broken people collaborating with God to express His will on earth. We worship imperfectly. We teach the truth as best we can. We love in our own disfigured way. We lead with a limp. We pray that God’s Kingdom will come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And we practice. We try to imitate Jesus as He, the Master Sculptor, chips away at our rough edges, preparing us for what is to come.

Photo courtesy of Christ Community Church

As we imitate Jesus, we become more like Him. God uses the community of the church as a lab. In that lab we experience unity and conflict. We experience grief and joy. We experience love and loss. At every one of these moments, Jesus is working on our character and our soul.

The church is God’s workshop to mold us into the image of His Son. That is why we are committed to the church in good times and bad. God is making us into His new creation through the tension, the pain, and the triumphs of life in community.

In the church we love across diversity—age diversity, racial diversity, and economic diversity. We find community among people who are like us and not at all like us. We practice the Kingdom until it comes in its fullness. Because when it comes, it will be far more diverse than our local expressions. Every tongue, tribe, and language will be there, and we will want to be ready to be transformed with them and worship with them. That is the church at its best.

4. The church takes people from cradle to grave.

There is a place among God’s people for age-targeted ministries, like my beloved InterVarsity. There is a place for Christian radio, Christian bookstores, and Christian camping. But there is only one family that takes you cradle to grave. There is only one place that you experience baby dedications, baptisms to publicly affirm faith, weddings, funerals, and significant moments of teaching, worship, and discipleship every week of your life.

Discipleship does not happen in a week, a year, or a season. It happens over a lifetime. As we walk with God from our seeking phase to maturity, He grows us. The pressures of a student are different from the exhaustion of a young parent or the loss of a senior. God meets us and molds us in a church context in each of these seasons. His Spirit moves remarkably well at all ages and stages to apply His power to differing situations.

Moreover, we need each other. Our older warriors need the enthusiasm of youth. Fatherless kids need men to look up to. Our middle-aged leaders need the wisdom of our sages. I am committed to the church because we are all better when we lead across the spectrum of ages.

5. The church is the world’s best sending platform.

The church is filled with prayer warriors, financiers, cheerleaders, and inspirational leaders who support the mission of reaching the unreached. In this context, God calls ordinary, sloppy, broken misfits and reclaims them to bring the best news in the world to the darkest corners of the earth. If we are to accomplish the commission He gave us 2,000 years ago, we must mobilize to reach a dying world.

The church that has resources, people, and a wealth of knowledge needs to send its best and brightest to the areas of the world that have no access to the gospel and little chance of hearing the name of Jesus. They will hear only if we will go. I am committed to the church because it is the very place that mobilizes people, money, and ideas to take the best news ever to those who have the most need.

4 responses to Why I’m Committed to the Local Church

  1. I agree,
    Before I started to go into a Christian Church I was a Catholic. I thought church was boring, I didn’t get hungry when church was in session, and I didn’t understand. I stopped going to church after I was out of youth classes which too were the worst ever being a kid. As I had gotten older I really haven’t had Jesus in my life. More or so did I accept him. I had tried to take my own life back in Feb of 2012 with attempted suicide/overdose.I had a near death experience and at that point was a wake up call to me and I felt Jesus and the devils presence. I knew at that Point I didn’t want to die and I begged the lord for his help. It was scary! But without the Lord and my faith of Jesus Christ I wouldn’t have been where I am now doing what I do and continue to do.
    On and off I had lost closed families due to drug overdoses, and suicide. Another reason that hit me from not being at a church. I ended up being lost!!! But God lead me into a direction where one of my friends had invited me to their church. I was kinda so , so on it and then I was like , Sure! Since that one visit back in November 2016. It had changed me!! The hunger I had for Jesus Christ, The understanding of when the pastor spoke up infront of us and it all was like Jesus was talking right through him. It all clicked… From Accepting Jesus into my life in December 2016 and getting re baptized in February 2017. From having testimonies left to right and having a pastor to look up too, to having the church as another family to lean too in need of hard times. I am truly Grateful!!!! and I continue to share the gospel, mention Jesus in my topics and now listen to Christian Music, Read the Bible and Dream about Jesus. It’s amazing how Great God is!!!! Am blessed to be a follow and believer of him

  2. Thank you for sharing,I Praise God for leading me to the C&MA in 1957,what a Blessing to serve Him as He leads.

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