OceanSide church of Christ
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YOUR CONNECTION TO THE LOCAL CONGREGATION
Victor M. Eskew
When we obeyed the gospel, the Lord added us to the body of Christ. In I Corinthians 12:18, we read: “But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it pleased him.” We became members of the universal church. And, we also became members of a local congregation of God’s people. Yes, every Christian is supposed to be closely connected to a local congregation.
In the first century, there were local congregations of God’s people. Paul established churches and wrote letters to those churches. We have all heard of the church at Corinth, the church at Ephesus, the church at Colossae, and the church at Thessalonica. In the Revelation, we also read about the seven churches of Asia (Rev. 1:11, 20). Each one of these local churches was made up of several members. Phebe is referred to as “a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea” (Rom. 16:1). The household of Chloe was part of the church at Corinth (I Cor. 1:11). In his letter to the church at Colossae, Paul mentions Onesimus, and describes him as “a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you” (Col. 4:9). In Revelation 2:13, Jesus mentions Antipas who was His faithful martyr. He notes that he “was slain among you.” At Thyatira a woman named Jezebel was allowed “to teach and seduce” the Lord’s servants “to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols” (Rev. 3:20). Churches then were just like churches today. There were local churches overseen by elders (Acts 20:28; I Pet. 5:1-3) and filled with numerous members.
When God put us into the body of Christ as a member, He expected us to be a healthy, vibrant, and active member of the local congregation. “But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary” (I Cor. 12:20-22). In Ephesians 4:15, Paul affirms that Christ is the head of the body. He then makes this powerful statement about the spiritual body. “From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4:16). Notice some of the words Paul uses: “whole body,” “fitly joined together,” “every joint,” “effectual working,” and “every part.” Every member is needed. Every member has a role to play. Every member contributes to the increase of the body.
It appears that some members of the body of Christ are not aware of their need to be closely connected to the local congregation. We say this because some have distanced themselves completely from the local congregation. Interestingly, if they were asked, they would claim membership somewhere. Others seem to be part-time members only. Their attendance of the worship services is about half of the time. They are involved in few, if any, works of the church. The other members of the church are interested in them, but they are not interested in the members of the congregation. Such situations are spiritually dangerous. These individuals are casting themselves off from a vital lifeline.
A minister went to visit a member who had cut himself off from the local church. The man answered his door and invited the minister in. He invited the preacher to sit in a comfortable chair in front of the fireplace while he took a seat in his lounger. The man knew why the minister was there. Thus, he said nothing. The minister also sat quietly in his chair. Both men gazed into the burning fire. Without saying a word, the preacher took the fire poker and reached into the fire and withdrew an ember. At first it was aflame and very red. Quickly, however, it began to die. What had been hot and bright and red was soon dark and cold and black. The minister, then, pushed the ember back into the fire. Once there, it blazed again. The other man watched all the minister did. When the preacher took his seat, the man simply replied: “I understand. Thank you.” The minister rose and left the house. The very next Sunday, the unfaithful man was at the worship services. He repented of his unfaithfulness. He quit being distant and was soon laboring feverishly for the Lord. Once back in the fire, he became a burning ember.
There are many comparisons that should make members who have disconnected from the local congregation think seriously about their situation.
1. They are like a limb amputated from the body that will eventually grow cold and die.
2. They are like a limb that has been cut from a tree that will wither and turn brown.
3. They are like a drowning man who has released himself from his lifeline.
4. They are like a city that has had its water supply cut off by the enemy.
5. They are like a troop in the wilderness that has been disconnected from its supply line.
6. They are like a brilliant spot light that has been disconnected from it electrical supply.
In each of these illustrations, the end is relatively the same. The outcome is darkness, decay, death, and destruction.
There are some members who had heard these points numerous times. In times past, their hearts were convicted. They even repented, and came back. However, they did not find the fire. In a few weeks, they were dislocated from the body of Christ again. In such cases, the main problem is that these individual did not fully connect with the local congregation. They were willing to attend a few worship services, but they did not give themselves wholly to the Lord and His cause. In essence, their repentance was half-hearted. Dear readers, the key is “the whole heart.” “Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart” (Ps. 119:2). Do you need to reconnect with your local congregation? We plead with you to do so. Do so with your whole heart!