Roaming Christians (Part 2)
By bro Alvin Lin
Who are Christians to stir up and encourage?
In Heb 10:24-25, we are told to “consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” in “exhorting one another”. In particular, this call is made by the writer so that Christians would not forsake the worship assembly “as the manner of some is”. The Christian life is a long journey fraught with challenges and temptations, which makes mutual support and encouragement all the more crucial (Ecc 4:9-13). God knows the importance of fellowship to the spiritual development of a Christian, and so, He has placed the obligation on members of the local church to look out for and care for one another. However, if Christians do not place their membership with a local congregation, how can other Christians get to know them beyond a surface level and be “brother keepers” and “sister keepers” to them? How would their brothers and sisters know if they have gone missing from the worship assembly and check in on them, or if they have switched to join the worship services of other congregations for the time being?
How can “roaming Christians” be supported and restored?
One of the things that our Lord expects of His disciples is for us to take care of the needy and to visit the infirmed (Mat 25:31-46). When brethren are caught in sin, those who are spiritual are to “restore such an one in the spirit of meekness” and to “bear ye one another's burdens” (Gal 6:1-2). In fact, we are commanded to do good to everyone, but “especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:10). However, if Christians do not place their membership with a local congregation, how can the brethren form close relationships with them, to know and support their needs, and to correct and restore them when they sin? How can they use their talents for the Lord in serving, when they are not members of any local congregation?
Who is responsible for the growth of the church?
God never intended for Christians to “fly solo”, “for the body is not one member, but many” (1Co 12:14). The body of Christ can only increase and grow when there is “effectual working in the measure of every part”, when every Christian in the local congregation plays their part in using their talents to serve the Lord (Eph 4:16). However, if Christians do not place their membership with a local congregation, where would the church find the resources necessary for carrying out its programs and its God-ordained work to bring the gospel to the lost in the world? What would be the use of having elders if there are no members to oversee and how can teachers be able to teach effectively if students come and go as they like (Eph 4:11)?
How did the first century church grow so rapidly?
The secret to their growth is the word “unity”. Such synergy is revealed in Act 2:42-47.
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
Notice their closeness to each other in the church, where they “continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers”. Such unity bore much fruit in evangelism (“fear came upon every soul”, “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved”), benevolence (“sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need”, “having favour with all the people”), and edification (“continuing daily with one accord in the temple”, “singleness of heart”). However, if Christians do not place their membership with a local congregation, how much can they accomplish by their own efforts? How can God receive glory in the church (Eph 3:21)?
The church is the “manifold wisdom of God” (Eph 3:10), where the saved are added, to support one another and to serve God. Yet, there are Christians who are under the illusion that they can be pleasing to God without submitting to His prescribed design. Some do not want to place their membership with a local congregation as they do not want to take on responsibilities in serving, be accountable for their stewardship, or receive discipline for offences. Others have difficulty getting along with others so they keep the brethren at arm's length. However, we are in the family of God and there is a difference between being a squatter in someone’s house and being a part of the family. Being a member of a local church is important for spiritual growth and development. If you are a child of God but are not a member of any local congregation, do not deprive yourself further of the love and support you need and that others need from you. We at Eastside church of Christ welcome you to be a part of us in serving God together!