I love how pumped up people get at the start of a year, whether or not they publicly broadcast it. It’s fascinating how the simple turn of a calendar can infuse a mentality in us that screams this is the year. Confidence runs high, motivation runs deep, and the journey toward a better “______” begins.
You have the standard resolutions to exercise more, eat less, and be more “present”. Then you have the standard Christian resolutions to pray more and read through the entire Bible, and for whatever reason, there is brimming confidence that this will be the year our Bible reading plan won’t flounder in Leviticus and die in Numbers (sidenote: for those looking, this is a top notch 5 days-a-week Bible reading plan).
So have it, get those washboard abs and start eating that raw kale for breakfast. But let me add an additional quest for 2017, a God-glorifying pursuit for you to consider: a deeper commitment to the body of Christ, the local church. I know, I know, here’s a pastor calling for a deeper commitment to the local church. How convenient, that’s as shocking as a fitness instructor encouraging people to work out more. But let me offer 3 simple reasons why the pursuit of a deeper commitment to the local church is a worthwhile one for you this year:
- The surpassing worth of knowing and loving Jesus Christ
There are tons of motivations to attend church that may start strong, but wane over time. The music is great, the preacher is funny, there is a cute girl that sits in the front left section, they serve free coffee and cookies, so on and so on. A big motivation may simply be because it makes us feel better about ourselves, and it serves as a spiritual life insurance so that if anything happens, we’re covered man, because we go to church! Woah. So when people ask us to talk about our faith, we often use church as our evidence. “Well, I go to church”, as if that answers the question.
The best and most sustainable motivation for not only attending church, but also committing to it, is that it’s a natural outflow of our love for Jesus Christ, the one who brought us from darkness into light (2 Cor 4:6). We commit to a body of believers who together gather regularly not because we have to, but because we get to (Heb 10:24-25). A Christian who claims to love Christ and yet not need the church is like a diehard Cowboys fan who loves the team but doesn’t need to watch the playoff game this Sunday. It doesn’t add up. In the end, a deeper commitment to the church, the body of Christ, is a reflection of our love and pursuit of Jesus himself, and there is no better pursuit you will have in 2017 than knowing the surpassing worth and love of Jesus Christ.
- Be the means of encouragement toward others in your foxhole
Being a Christian is hard. If we don’t ever find it difficult, we should examine what kind of Christian life we’re living. While we don’t face the same physical threats that many of our brothers and sisters across the globe and we ought not create a persecution complex, the Biblical reality is we do face the same spiritual enemy that seeks to kill and destroy (Eph 6). The call to pursue a deeper commitment to the body of Christ out of a deeper love for Christ comes with warning signs. It won’t make you richer, or healthier, or happier, and in actuality it could do the opposite of all those things, but it will deepen our joy regardless of our circumstances. And, as with all hard things, it is better to rub shoulders with others who are pursuing the same thing.
Being part of a church community offers opportunities to encourage others on the journey, and in turn, to be encouraged. When it comes to the Christian life, a lone ranger is a dead ranger. Don’t be a hero, rely on the other members of the body and allow them to rely on you.
- A cosmic, ever-expanding, mission to embark upon
If church is your Sunday hobby, let me tell you as a pastor, it’s a horrible hobby. You could do better. Go golfing, take up knitting, or learn how to bake.
Church wasn’t meant to be a hobby, but rather a community of people that are playing a part in accomplishing God’s plan for reaching and loving the world (Matthew 28:18-20). If you want to get caught up in something bigger than yourself and dive into a story that will stretch you and bring you to your knees, then join the mission of the local church.
Encourage others to join you in reaching the least of these, supporting global missionaries who are bringing the gospel to unreached people groups, and step onto the training ground that will disciple you and equip you to make disciples.
Maybe your resolution list for 2017 is seven pages long, or maybe you gave up on resolutions years ago and jumped on the “resolutions are pointless” bandwagon, but either way, a deeper commitment to the local church could very well be the best decision you’ll make this year. And plus, you don’t even need to eat kale.