I pretty much grew up in church. When I was a kid our family went to church three times every Sunday - Sunday morning, Sunday afternoon and Sunday night. When I was nine years of age (back in 1970), my family travelled to America where my dad was one of the speakers for multiple church conventions and camps up and down the West Coast. I attended over 800 meeting in eighteen months! Overall, for me, church involvement was a pretty positive experience. I made a lot of friends, came to know God for myself, discovered some of my own gifts and abilities, and grew as a person.
What about you? Maybe you had a similar experience as me or maybe you have only recently got connected to 'church.' Or maybe you have had some hurts or disappointments along the way. In may ways, churches are like families - they all have a degree of dysfunction.
Whatever your experience, God created the church for our benefit - not just for his. I shared with our young people a few weeks back, four benefits that church can bring to your life:
Jesus called people to be 'with him' - to hang out together. Church is not something you go to (an event or a building) but rather something you a part of (like a family). Every human being asks the question: "Where do I belong?" We were created for community and we move in tribes or herds. Church can be a terrific place to make great friends. I met my wife, Nicole, through church and have made lots of other really good friends for which I am truly thankful.
Friends have a big influence on us (Prov.13:20. 1 Cor.15:33). Be friends with everyone but run with those who are headed in the direction you want to go.
Other questions we have are: "Who am I?" and "What do I believe in?" Church is a great environment to discover God for yourself. This is often a journey that takes time. We all have questions and doubts, just like Thomas, but God does not condemn us for them. He reaches out to us to give us reasons to believe (Jn.3:16).
We all want to know how life works. Church is a great place to learn wisdom for life so that we make smart choices. Our decisions determine our destiny and our choices have consequences. What we sow we will ultimately reap. We can gain "foresight" which is "the ability to think ahead" rather than just live for the moment (Prov.14:12). God's Word is is guidebook for our life. God's ways are not always easy but they are for our good (Matt.7:13-14). The enemy seeks to make sin look attractive, so we need wisdom to see his trap and choose wisely.
We all want to know the answer to the question: "What am I here for?" We desire purpose and meaningful contribution. "Function" refers to "the activity or purpose natural to or intended for a purpose or thing." There are a lot of things you could do with your life but you will be most effective and most fulfilled when you live for the purpose for which God created you. Church is a great environment to discover, develop and deploy your gifts for the benefit of others (1Pet.4:10). God created you for a purpose (Eph.2:8-10). Don't compare yourself with others. Be the best you can be.
Life is short and eternity is really long. Enjoy life but remember your Creator and your God (Ecc.11:9-12:1). Church was created by God as a family that you can be a vital part of. We tend to get out of life what we put into it. As we commit to our own church family, making it the best it can be, we also received many benefits from it - including friends, faith, foresight and function.
Enjoy YOUR church this year!