The church of our Lord does not occupy the place it should in the hearts of men and women in our culture. Church membership is seen as a trivial thing, something that is good if one wants it, but unnecessary in the grand scheme of things. Satan's success at diminishing the importance of the church in our culture is one of his great victories of the late twentieth century.

Only the diligence and example of strong Christians who are ready to give an answer of the hope within can stem the tide of anti-church sentiment rising in our land (Matt. 5:13-16; 1 Pet. 3:15, 16). Yet, in most of the faithful churches of our Lord these days, attendance, although not the only indicator of the prosperity of a congregation, lags woefully. As good as it might be on Sunday morning, it can fall to two-thirds or one-half on Sunday night and as much as one-half on Wednesday night. One preacher I know had to inform his congregation that only about one-third of the members attended their gospel meeting.

The ease with which some have left faithful congregations and placed membership with unfaithful, more liberal churches, is alarming and demonstrates a lack of concern in the hearts of many for Bible-based teaching and practice in the church where they were members originally. It seems, with some, the only thing that matters is the name on the sign in front of the building. It doesn't seem to matter as to what is taught and practiced within. For years I have talked to various ones among denominations who insisted that their church "preaches nothing but what's in the Bible," but were unwilling to examine those doctrines in light of the Bible to make sure. It appears that such sectarian view of the church is on the rise in our time among those who call themselves Christians.

Brethren, we need a renewed appreciation for the worth and value of our Lord's church. God is the Author: it is, therefore, divine (Heb. 3:4). Paul said it is God's temple (1 Cor. 3:16), His dwelling place (Eph. 2:19-22). It is to wear the name God gave it (Eph. 3:14-16; Isa. 62:2; 65:15). and be built according to His directions (Heb. 8:1-5; 9:11).

Jesus Christ is the Savior and Head of His church (Eph. 1:22, 23; Col. 1:18). Just as the church has only one head, Christ has but one body and that body is the church (Eph. 4:4; Col. 1:18). Therefore, the multiplicity of churches spawned in our world today are without God's blessings and forgiveness (Matt. 15:13; Eph. 1: 3).

Along with the importance of the church, the mission of the church has been cheapened in the minds of too many. Carnal desires are satisfied with a vengeance. All those who eat and play in the name of religion admit that such activities are not necessary to please God a a congregation, but yet they push such to the expulsion of those whose consciences are guided by such Scriptures as, "But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment" (1 Cor. 11:34), and "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him...It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God'. Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father come to Me" (Jno. 6:44,45). We must draw men to God by teaching His Word, not by fulfilling their carnal desire with recreation, entertainment, and filling of their bellies. (Jno. 6:27).

The lust for money is seen in the public pleas for funds from anyone and everyone who will give, even though Scriptures teach the functions of the local church are to be funded by the free-will offerings of the local members (1 Cor. 16:1,2; 2 Cor. 9:6-8). The thirst for numbers is seen in the spectacle called "worship" in many churches. When one watches the TV programs of churches that claim to be worshipping God, they see a much greater entertainment program, including dancing, put on than you would find in some secular musicals. Some of our own brethren are heading in that same direction with their puppet shows, skits, quartets and special chorus programs. Rather than an opportunity to worship, it is a production, with all the trimmings of entertainment, jokes, personal stories, hand-clapping and feet-stumping, special so-called accapella singing where different ones try to immitate the sounds of certain musical instruments instead of singing the words of the songs, but very little Scripture and teaching from God's Word. It has been voiced to me by every person I have taught out of denominationalism over the past few years that they have never heard the Word taught to the degree it is in the Lord's church.

Brethren, we look at the world and become discouraged, but we must, rather, look at Scripture and lift up our heads and hands. We have been placed in a glorious church by the Lord Himself, a church made up of all the saved people (Heb. 12:22,23). It is not a "tabernacle made with hands" (Heb. 9:11), for Christ's body is the dwelling place for all who will let Him transform them into partakers of the divine nature by doing His will. The church is the fullness of Christ, who Himself fills everything (Eph. 1:23)! And we have never, nor ever could be, given the privilege of being a part of a better group of people. However this might or might not be true of the local church you are a member of, don't forget that you are part of that group that transcends time and space, which is truly made up of the greatest people to ever walk the face of this earth, God's own children, Christians! It is indeed an honor to labor in God's vineyard, being a part of a local group of Christians, in a church belonging to Christ. Let us be assured that there are those of our world who will feel the same when the truth is revealed to them. Therefore, let us rise up, walking in the beautiful light of Christ and talking to our friends and loved ones about the blessings that are only found in the Lord's body.

-----Adapted from an article by Jeff McCrary in Truth Magazine, Vol. 47, No. 24 Dec. 18, 2003.

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