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 Church, simply 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.
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