In addition to a new school year and the football season kicking off, the transition from summer to fall is always highlighted by the launching of opportunities to get plugged in at church. One of the biggest challenges we see members of USG and other professionals throughout the sport industry struggle with is getting plugged into a local church body. Whether it’s the demanding schedule that these positions often require or the high volatility in relocating from city to city, there is no shortage of challenges for believers in college and pro sports to find a church home.
While these challenges are in fact very real, and sometimes even make it impossible for individuals to be plugged into their local church during specific seasons of the year, I wanted to take a moment to highlight just a few reasons why we should always strive to remain committed to the church.
Some of the best advice I received early on as a Christian was from Baltimore Ravens Team Chaplain & USG Board Member Johnny Shelton. He shared, “Do not let anything stop you from going to church that would never stop you from going to class or work on Monday!”
It takes a lot to stop me from missing class or work. Yet so often I find myself entertaining excuses of why it’s ok for me to miss church on Sunday. Can’t I just spend that time by myself worshipping the Lord? Why do I need to gather with others?
Here are just a few of the reason’s I believe commitment to our local church is worth prioritizing.
The Church is Christ’s Bride
There is certainly no shortage of ‘negative’ experiences that individuals have had with the church (it is made up of broken individuals just like you and me after all), but we should never allow these frustrations to detract us from the significant role that God has given the church.
The Bible presents the church as Christ’s bride (2 Cor. 11:2-4). In an effort to communicate how husbands should love their wives, Paul emphasizes how Jesus loved the church as His bride and has given Himself up for her (Eph 5:25).
The church is also referred to as God’s family (Eph 1:19), a temple (1 Pet 2:5), and as Christ’s body (Eph 1:22-23).
Jesus declares in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” He continues later in the Gospel of Matthew to unpack how the church will serve as a manifestation of His presence on earth.
Raymond Cannata and Joshua Reitano point out in their book Rooted, “Most of the New Testament is composed of letters written to specific churches. When the apostles did evangelism, they didn’t just say to individuals, “Great you’re saved. Read your Bible.” They set up churches in every town they went to, and they appointed elders to help lead. The Bible makes the church central to the Christian life," (Rooted, 2019).
We Are Called to Community
As an introverted homebody, there is perhaps no reason I would love to ignore more than this one right here. I love time to myself. And while this is certainly a valid part of how God has created me, it is also very clear that He has made even introverts like myself for community. God tells us that He made us in His image. God Himself is a relational being as He is part of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit trinity. Being made in His image, therefore, means that we too have been made as relational beings. Some of my favorite verses that illustrate our call to community include:
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” - Prov 27:17
“Let us spur one another on to love and good deeds..” - Heb 10:24
“Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” - Galatians 6:2
No matter how ‘tiring’ I may find it to be around other people at times, I can’t deny the reality that I need brothers and sisters in Christ to challenge and encourage me. And I am called to do the same for others. It is no secret that one of the enemies' greatest strategies is to isolate us and make us feel alone. There is no greater way to fight against this deception than remaining committed to our local church body.
God’s Design For Others to Come to Know Him.
Perhaps one of the most overlooked reasons for us to value the church is that it is God’s design for others to come to know of Him, and His love for them.
As I mentioned earlier, the church is God’s physical representation of Himself on earth.
On the night before He was crucified Jesus shared, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another (John 13:34-35).” Later on, Jesus' final prayer in John 17 is for His disciples to remain united.
The early church defied all social constructs of their time by giving equal worth to both Jew and Greek, men and women, poor and wealthy. They called those that were outside of their ‘social norms’ brothers and sisters and even met each others' needs sacrificially.
Acts 2:42-47 points out how members of the early church would sell their own possessions to meet the needs of their brothers and sisters. The passage concludes with how “the Lord added to their number daily.”
Let us be men and women who recognize the significance of the church, our need for community, and the mission we have been given for others to come to know God through our love for each other.
Need help finding a local church? Here are five things to look for from the Gospel Coalition.