The local church reminds me that we are lovely because God loves us--and not the other way around.

Have You Made the Decision to Love the Local Church?

There’s a piece of very good advice circulating these days, and I followed it several decades ago without even realizing it. Hearing it set to the music of wise words, I can see how much energy it has saved me over the years. It goes like this: Make the Decision Once.

Of course there is an infinite number of applications for this principle, but in the case of our family it was a Sunday morning decision. We would go to church. We wouldn’t wake up and recycle the decision every week based on how we felt, or how the weather was leaning, or whether we were well-rested or getting along like a model family. We would just go.

One lovely outcome of this long ago decision is that our family (now mostly grown) has learned to love the local church. We have found in it A Place to Belong, and this is the premise embedded in Megan Hill’s writing. When our Christ-following life is connected to the church “as God sees the church,” (13) we find ourselves supported in our calling to live a holy life, and we realize that the work of putting gospel truth on display is not a solo but a symphony.

The Big Picture View from the Pew

As part of the local church, we are given the honor of loving the people God loves. Very often, they are not the people I would choose to do business with, but then, “since the fall of Adam, sin has made everyone unlovely,” including me. God’s own love for people is not merit-based, and I find myself learning that same kind of love when I serve beside someone I would never have gotten to know if we didn’t attend the same church. The local church reminds me that we are lovely because God loves us–and not the other way around.

The local church gathered reminds me that worship has been going on since the children of Adam and Eve “began to call upon the name of the LORD.” When we gather on Sunday morning, we join angels in heaven and saints from around the world in an act that has nothing to do with my preference for lofty hymns of the faith or my concern over the off-key singing coming from somewhere to my left.

Worship is a spiritual activity, focused on the truth of God’s word. Its elements are outwardly unremarkable, and its effects–the glory of God, the salvation of sinners, the sanctification and comfort of God’s people–are largely invisible. To encourage our hearts in this outwardly ordinary practice, we must consider the glorious, but often overlooked, realities of the church’s worship.”

Page 51

Part of God’s Flock and Part of Christ’s Body

Not only does the local church unify believers under God, our Shepherd, but it also demonstrates that there is room for everyone and a job for every gifting. Some of my fondest memories of church life have come from my experiences of directing summer children’s ministries. Everyone lands like a marine on the beaches of Normandy bringing their best efforts with them, fully committed for the task at hand, and serving in a way for which God has uniquely equipped them. We need the juice-pouring grandmothers as much as we need the high school guys playing dodge ball with the kids.

What all the lists of gifts, super-imposed upon one another and cross-referenced for accuracy, will ultimately teach us is this: “the Spirit gives exactly the right gifts in exactly the right measure at exactly the right time to exactly the right people for the well-being of the local church.” (81) Hill employs the apt metaphor of a “buffet table” to describe church-member gifts. “You never know what you might find” there! (80)

A Place to Belong is a book about the importance and the role of the local church in the plan of God. Like its author, I am also a casserole-carrying church woman, committed to the church’s mission of living out our identity as “saints,” as we pray for one another, as we scatter to serve, and as we gather to bring people into the fellowship and teaching that leads to disciple-making. Church is the best preparation I can imagine for our future life as the redeemed people of God, and so I’m grateful to be part of a local church.

I hope you’ll also make the decision once,

Many thanks to Crossway for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

One last thing! Click here to read an article in CT Magazine in which Megan Hill shares five books that magnify her love for the local church.

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase A Place to Belong: Learning to Love the Local Churchsimply click on the title, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

"As you give all, you find all." Amy Carmichael

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37 thoughts on “Have You Made the Decision to Love the Local Church?”

  1. Our church is small in number, but large in the love of God and others. It is definitely a place for my family to belong. I want to read this book, so it goes on my list. Have a wonderful Wednesday!

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  2. Michele, thank you so much for your recent visit to my blog, Clothed with Joy. Your visit to me enabled me to find you! I do, indeed love the local church, and I am really hating the fact that we haven’t been worshiping in person these past few months. Our family so loves the local church that, last year, we made the decision to leave our long-time church to be part of the core group for a church they were planting in another part of the city. It would have been easy to stay where we were (comfort, settled in, etc.), but we knew God wanted us to be part of the church plant.

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    1. I love your family’s courageous decision, and as I read it, I thought of all the people and comfort I would have to leave behind if I did the same. May God richly bless your commitment to spreading his love and his truth in another location!

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  3. I hadn’t thought of it in quite those words, but we did essentially the same thing in making the decision once to attend church regularly. This is a needful book in this era (pre-COVID) when I see so many professing Christ but thinking they don’t need the church. So many have left because of something that went wrong, some way they felt hurt or neglected. I just saw a meme today that said Jesus experienced those things at the hands of people, too, yet He didn’t forsake them. He died for them. How we need to show self-sacrificing love instead of withdrawing to our separate corners..

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    1. I’ve said so many times that if I had to make the decision every week, I’d never make it to church. There’s always some perfectly reasonable excuse to stay home. But I need the life on life experience of worshiping with other believers more than I need to indulge myself with time at home.

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  4. Wonderful post Michele. I have to buy this book you have reviewed. It caused me to reflect on another book by John Owen, “The Duties of Christian Fellowship”.

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      1. wow, really? I thought I was alone in reading him. Years ago, i tried to read his works, but got scared! lol. Now, I find a lot in his works that feed me depths I knew not of. : )

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I feel like the local church is struggling which is so sad to me. Its such a special community that supports one another. But we live in a world where people dont like one thing & they pick up & leave so easily. Church is family… you hang with your family as long as possible – tough things out.

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    1. I wish your thoughts could be piped into every home. Yes, the church is struggling right now, and maybe it’s because we’re just not very good at adapting, but hiding from it will not fix the problem, and your connection between church and family is so spot on!

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  6. I’m remembering the famous quote of John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Most people nod their heads in agreement with his statement–even today. We need to adopt that attitude about our churches: “Ask not what your church can do for you; ask what you can do for your church.” I wonder how church life would change?

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  7. And it is actually a conscious decision, isn’t it? I’m still watching our services online so I feel disconnected from my church as a whole, but the women are having an online conference next week that I’m looking forward to.

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  8. ‘God’s love is not merit-based…The local church reminds me that we are lovely because God loves us–and not the other way around’ – I was reminded of something similar to this recently, when I felt put off in going back to in-person services at my local church (we are meeting in-person for the first time this Sunday since the lockdown). This was a timely post for me. Thank you for the reminder that “…When we gather on Sunday morning, we join angels in heaven and saints from around the world in an act that has nothing to do with my preference…”. I have missed physical church and I’m grateful we get to go back.

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    1. Yes, I hear you, and maybe with all its inconveniences and features that fall short of our preferences, this is the perfect season for us all to fall back on gratitude for the church gathered — no matter how inconvenient the safety precautions!

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  9. Oh Michele … I’m so thankful that Randy and I made that same decision once (I LOVE that phrase, by the way). Over the years, we’ve had times of greater involvement than other times, but being a part of a local church has always been an important part of our family’s life and spiritual health.

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    1. I heard the phrase recently on a podcast about The Lazy Genius–although I’ve heard the phrase other places as well through the years. It’s fun how “do the next thing” and other bits of wisdom are being recycled now by younger writers.

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  10. This sounds like a great book, Michele! And I like the idea of making the decision once. I hadn’t really thought about it like that but I think that’s what I did. I went through a period of several years where I really struggled with church but I kept showing up and I’m glad. For the last four years I’ve been part of a church that I truly love and I appreciate it all the more because of my experiences before that.

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  11. Sounds like a great book. Isn’t it wonderful when we the decision we made one time continues to impact – and become the decision without much thought – for generations to come! I love it…and I’m grateful for it!

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  12. Yes I like that phrase ‘make the decision once’ that many of us have made subconsciously to support our local church – sounds like an interesting book! It struck me in the Eugene Peterson book Practicing Resurrection how important he considered the local church as being the place where we ‘grow’ spiritually and as you say so well “Church is the best preparation I can imagine for our future life as the redeemed people of God, and so I’m grateful to be part of a local church.”

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  13. ********************************************************
    Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. Pinned and shared. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too! Please stay safe and healthy. Come party with us at Over The Moon! Catapult your content Over The Moon! @marilyn_lesniak @EclecticRedBarn
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  14. ********************************************************
    Thank you so much for sharing at #OverTheMoon. Pinned and shared. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too! Please stay safe and healthy. Come party with us at Over The Moon! Catapult your content Over The Moon! @marilyn_lesniak @EclecticRedBarn
    ********************************************************

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  15. As a child I used to take myself off to Sunday school every week and throughly enjoyed being part of the church. Personal reasons stopped me from attending when I was 28. The church played a huge role in my Grandmothers life and it was the heart of her community. I’ve discussed joining the church again with my husband when we return to the UK full time as a way of making friends and having a sense of belonging when we settle back after our expat lives. Thanks for joining in with #pocolo

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