October 7, 2015

Joys of the Local Church

by Eric Davis
old-white-church-shirley-helton

images.fineartamerica.com

It’s easy to be drained of joy these days. All you have to do is exist.

But for God’s people, there is joy that is to be regularly had. One of the preeminent places for that is in a biblical local church. None of us would dare say that any local church is thoroughly utopian. Even so, it is a place where joys are to be uniquely experienced.

Here are a few joys we get to experience by immersing ourselves in God’s kind of a local church:

  1. The joy of knowing that the head of the organization is the greatest Person in the universe, the Lord Jesus Christ.

As impressive as many organizations, nations, and empires have been, none of them can lay claim to Christ as their Sovereign Head (Eph. 1:22).

  1. The joy of being in the one institution which Christ promised to build and bless.

No matter the discouragements we experience in the church, Christ is always actively building and blessing her as he sees fit (Matt. 16:18).

  1. The joy of doing what God wants me to do.
bigger than you

cdn.theatlantic.com

When I immerse myself into a biblical local church, I can be comforted that I am in the will of God (Heb. 13:17).

  1. The joy of being a part of something that is way bigger than me.

No organization has, or ever will have, the human-heaven-time expanse like the true church of Christ (Matt. 16:18, Eph. 3:10). Chronologically, she is the longest existing organization, having been planned in eternity past and continuing into eternity future (Eph. 1:4-5). Sociologically, she is the most diverse organization, made up of every tribe, language, people, and nation (Rev. 5:9).

  1. The joy of understanding how obvious it is that God’s power is behind the church.

By design, the church is composed of the not-mighty (1 Cor. 1:26-31). Yet very powerful things continue to happen through us, mere broken, weak sinners. A power superior to man’s is obviously at work.

  1. The joy of not being able to ruin the church.

Since the church’s existence did not originate with, nor depend upon (1 Cor. 3:7), me, I can’t do anything to destroy it (Matt. 16:18).

  1. The joy of being protected from ruining myself.
us

i2.mirror.co.uk

In God’s kind of a local church, there is the comfort of knowing that his loving prescription will be carried out on me should I toss myself into sin (Matt. 18:15-17, Heb. 3:12-14).

  1. The joy of having safeguards against hell.

Similar to the previous point, the local church has been delegated unique and unequaled care to expose the unregenerate church-goer to their deception and to the power of the saving gospel (Matt. 18:15-17, 1 Tim. 4:16, 1 Pet. 5:2-3).

  1. The joy of hearing from God, not man, regarding all things needed for life and godliness.

Since the church is delegated with preaching God’s word, I can be comforted knowing that I am regularly receiving his direction and input from the local men charged with the task (2 Tim. 4:2).

  1. The joy of plunging into the depths of the Bible together.

object50

As the “pillar and support of truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), the local church is charged with upholding and proclaiming biblical doctrine. Consequently, much of life together involves the pleasure of feasting on doctrinal truth (1 Tim. 4:13-16).

  1. The joy of being under men in leadership whom God wants to be there.

In a biblical local church, the men on the leadership team are qualified to be there by the grace of God, through the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives (1 Tim. 3:1-7, Titus 1:6-9, 1 Pet. 5:2-3).

  1. The joy of regularly gathering unto our Head, Christ.

Christ is such a big deal, that we get to weekly assemble to both celebrate and grow in him (Heb. 10:24-25).

  1. The joy of knowing that I will be held accountable to live with biblical integrity.

The local church is charged with loving one another enough to nudge each other so that our profession in Christ matches our practice in life (Gal. 6:1-3, 1 Pet. 5:2-3).

  1. The joy of being around people who understand that I am a sinner with remaining sin.
transparent

seekayem.com

Fellow sinners saved by grace in the church are neither surprised nor taken back when I am not perfect (Matt. 5:3, Col. 3:12-15).

  1. The joy of knowing that I can safely and honestly confess my sin to others in the local church.

Every true member of the church knows, and is humbled by, the Spirit-empowered knowledge that we are sinful to the core (Matt. 5:3-4, 6). Knowing that, we can come to each other to experience God’s grace of honest confession with one another.

  1. The joy of experiencing progressive conformity into Christ’s likeness when we know it is otherwise impossible.

Part of what it means that Christ is blessing the church is that he is transforming all her true members into his image (Rom. 8:29, Phil. 2:12-13).

  1. The joy of being with a people who share Christ’s sincere interest in your well-being.

Though the church always needs to grow in love this side of heaven, nevertheless, there is God’s kind of love experienced from her members that is otherwise unexperiencable (1 John 3:14).

  1. treasure in heavenThe joy of expending investing ourselves in something that will last forever.

Though we can struggle to remember it at times, even the smallest investments of our time, money, resources, skills, and giftedness in and for Christ’s Bride matter for all eternity (Matt. 6:20, 25:14-21, 1 Cor. 3:14, 2 Cor. 5:10).

  1. The joy of having a people who bring God’s kind of care to me in suffering.

Because Christ indwells her, and he sympathizes with our weaknesses, it is no surprise to experience facets of his comfort in our most difficult times (Rom. 12:15, 2 Cor. 1:3-4, Heb. 2:18, 4:15).

  1. The joy of being around a people striving for excellence in life, yet not for self-aggrandizement, but for Christ’s pleasure.

Both by the power of the Holy Spirit in us, and the example of church members around us, we are moved to do all things for God’s glory (1 Cor. 10:31).

  1. The joy of seeing God’s supernatural power on display.

In God’s kind of a church, the miraculous is visible all around us; things that only God’s power can accomplish (Phil. 2:12-13). For example, the miracle of salvation; the new-birthed soul who hated Christ, yet now loves, honors, and proclaims him. The miracle of transformed lives in sanctification. The miracle of true humility in a soul. The miracle of sacrificial service for Christ and one another. The miracle of men being raised up into leadership from the ashes of brokenness. The miracle of souls suffering, finishing, and dying well.

  1. The joy of the diversity created and used for unity.
handsone580x380

terracepalms.net

In just about any local church, there is significant diversity; an assortment of skills, temperaments, backgrounds, giftedness, and more. It’s a joy to watch the Holy Spirit use all of these to exalt the one Lord, Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 12:7, 20).

  1. The joy of knowing that the disappointments in the church’s members will be perfected in God’s timing.

It’s amazing to think that Christ would build his Bride from the stock of humanity. That amazement plays out in real discouragement we sometimes experience in light of each other’s remaining imperfection. But soon, his Bride will shine in her garments of pure holiness (Eph. 5:27, Phil. 1:6, Rev. 19:7-8).

  1. The joy of knowing that opposition will do nothing to hinder the existence and propagation of the church.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Because her builder is the Sovereign King of the universe, not even earthly kings pose a threat to the extinction of the church (Matt. 16:18).

  1. The joy of knowing what is to come.

One day, our churches will join with all of God’s churches in heaven to celebrate Christ in an unimaginably wonderful existence for all eternity (John 17:24, Rev. 22:3-5).

By God’s grace and design, the local church is a place where there is real joy. And though we will not always experience these joys to the fullness of our liking, for the most part, these are present for the blessing of the redeemed in God’s local churches.

Eric Davis

Posts Twitter

Eric is the pastor of Cornerstone Church in Jackson Hole, WY. He and his team planted the church in 2008. Leslie is his wife of 14 years and mother of their 3 children.
  • Jason

    May we all find fellowship that lives in the joys listed here! I have a couple of questions:

    #11 Isn’t this technically true of all leadership (Romans 13:1)? Perhaps you meant to say that leadership in the church is the only place where godly character is the qualifications?

    #12 Why limit it to weekly or only scheduled times at all?!

    • Eric Davis

      Thanks Jason. In #11, my intention was to say that a church where the men in leadership fit the qualifications of 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9, are, therefore, men whom should be there; men who are honoring God in the office of elder.

      Agreed about #12. I did not intend to say that we can/should only assemble on Sunday, but that we get to assemble on Sundays. I would not exclude other important gatherings.

  • I really enjoyed the depth of your post, and I’m concerned when I hear so many sincere Christians express the idea that church, for them, is optional. Many of the joys you expressed can only happen within a committed body of believers. I’ve been reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer lately, and just finished teaching a series on the psalms of ascent, and the two came together with my ponderings on the church in this blog post: https://michelemorin.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/oil-and-dew-two-reasons-to-give-the-church-another-chance/
    I don’t go into nearly as much detail as you have here. I was encouraged when I saw your post that I’m not alone in my thinking!

    • Eric Davis

      That’s great, Michele. Thank you for sharing.

  • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

    We recently got together to welcome a new couple who had moved into our neighborhood. As we sat talking, I began dropping my usual words such as, “It’s such a blessing to live here,” or “and we thanked God for that,” or “and after church we went to…” waiting for their reaction.

    It wasn’t long before the ladies eyes began to brighten up. She began to share stories of her faith, her former church and how she was looking for a home church here. (Sadly, her husband didn’t share that faith, but we’re praying!)

    It is such a joy now to see her on Sunday mornings enjoying her new church family. I am still amazed at how God brings us together through our love for Christ in the Holy Spirit. That is still just miraculous to me.

    • Eric Davis

      Amen, Jane!

  • Pingback: Weekend Links | Worship Links()

  • Heather

    Thank you, Eric, for taking the time to write this. It was like sitting in a lovely green pasture, drinking from a cool stream. The reality is so often far from the ideal function the Lord created the local church to be. But…there is hope that trials and dark times in a church will pass and there will once again be overflowing joy, and I thank you for reminding me of that and feeding my soul with the sweet words of our Lord.

    The greatest joy I had in this list is your #1 “The joy of knowing that the head of the organization is the greatest Person in the universe, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Amen.

    It just reminded me that He is TRULY the Chief Shepherd and He will take care of His sheep – nothing goes by unnoticed to Him. If anything, I needed an increase of faith in this. I know all of this probably doesn’t make sense, but all of it to say – the Lord used this article to lift my soul and I just wanted to say ‘thank you’ 🙂