There is one question all Christians ask, and you may even be asking it right now: What church should I be a part of? As you thought about this, or are thinking about it, I am sure many questions have run through your head. Questions like:
Should I be a part of the church that has a lot of activities and fun things for my kids and me?
How about the one that perfectly fits my theological niche?
Or should I go to the one with the dynamic worship service?
How about the one in which I always feel comfortable?
Or is it the popular one in town that I should attend?
These are all questions that have been asked by Christians at one time or another when looking for a church. So which is it? Which church should we attend?
What should you be looking for in a church?
I believe the perfect church, the one we should look to attend, is the one that is primarily focused on benefiting others. Now I know it may sound strange to say that we should look for a church that is primarily focused on benefiting others, but if you think about it for a minute, that is the church that will best benefit us too.
Here is what I mean: If we are all willing to focus on the benefit of others, then we will all benefit. On the other hand, if we only focus on what benefits us, then we limit not only others' benefit but ours as well.
You see, when we only focus on our own benefit, we aren't using our God-given spiritual gifts as we ought, which means we aren't helping others as God intended. When you have a whole community that's not helping others as God has intended, then the whole community suffers. In the end, no one receives the degree of benefit that they could, if all focused on benefiting each other. I know, it sounds counter-intuitive but it's true. A community focused on self, receives less benefit than a community focused on others. So the perfect church, the one we should look to attend, is one that is primarily focused on benefiting others.
Now, if we are honest, most of us struggle with pouring ourselves out for others. Why is that?
Why do we most often do what benefits us?
I believe we focus on our own benefit to the exclusion of others because we have a sinful desire to be at the center. A sinful desire that is spurred on by American individualism. I believe American author Adam Johnson captures this sentiment well when he says,
“In America, the stories we tell ourselves and we tell each other in fiction have to do with individualism. Every person here is the center of his or her own story. And our job as people and as characters is to find our own motivations and desires, to overcome conflicts and obstacles toward defining ourselves so that we grow and change."
Did you catch that? “Every person here is the center of his or her own story.” Most Americans have bought into that idea, so much so that we all believe everything revolves around us.
But consider what Jesus says about us in Matthew 5:14,
"“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”
Jesus tells us we are the light of the world. We are a city set on a hill. A city is not made up of one person. Rather, it's made up of a gathering of people, who have banded together for a particular purpose. As Christians, we should be banded together for the purpose of following and glorifying Christ. When we accomplish that purpose, we shine as lights to the watching world for Christ.
We don't, however, shine as lights to the world, if we are all centered on ourselves. Instead, a church, whose individual members are centered on themselves, produce discouraged, uncomforted, self-centered, immature believers, rather than a brightly shining light others want to join.
How do we change?
How do we make sure we are a city shining a bright light of gospel transformation to the world? By shifting our focus from self to others. In order to do that, we have to apply the biblical idea of love. Love is what allows us to sacrifice our own desires and benefits for others. It's love, then, that allows us to be a growing, thriving, encouraging, and comforting community that's piercing the darkness of this world.
What if we are having trouble loving?
If we are having trouble loving, we need to meditate on the gospel. The picture of love the gospel presents is beyond belief. The gospel tells us that Jesus loves us so much He left His heavenly home, became a man, faced the difficulties of this sinful world, was persecuted, and ultimately nailed to the cross. But things didn’t end there. While He hung on the cross in physical agony, dying, the Father’s wrath was poured out on Him, not because He deserved it, but because we deserve it. Jesus hung in our place, taking our punishment so that we could experience a relationship with the Father and eternal life. It is His love that drove Him to sacrifice Himself for us.
If the love of Jesus expressed in the gospel doesn’t warm your heart, and make you want to sacrifice and do what benefits others, then you may not have experienced the effects of the gospel in your own life; you may not have experienced God’s love. When God’s love comes into your life, you want to share that love with others. So if you are having trouble loving and giving of yourself to others, then meditate on the gospel.