Apr
16

Plugged In by Randy Rowley 4/16/15 ©

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On a cold Saturday morning in early December, Jason Cox and I went on an FCS self-guided duck hunt on Lake Belton.  While Jason was doing some scouting, due to boredom, a lone duck flew within marginal range, but by the time I mounted my Browning Gold Hunter, I was presented with a 50+ yard going away shot.  I declined to take such an iffy shot, which probably would’ve wounded it and caused suffering.

After giving up, Mr. Murphy found us on the way back to the boat ramp.  After we loaded our gear in my boat, I started to back us out but ran into an underwater bush, so I made a U-turn.

After we reached a depth of three feet, I tried to get my boat on plane but instead popped a wheelie.  It felt stern (rear) heavy.  I tried twice more but got the same results.  I then had Jason and his lab, Junior, move to my boat’s bow (front), but that didn’t help either.  My boat also had about two inches of muddy water in it – I first thought we’d brought it into my boat when we loaded our gear, but it seemed to be coming up through both floor drains on closer inspection.

We went to the ramp as quickly as possible without popping a wheelie.  When we trailered my boat and pulled it out of the water, we found the problem – the bilge drain plug had come out!  Water gushed out of the bilge drain hole for about ten minutes as if it were coming from a garden hose on full power!  When I backed into that underwater bush, my plug must have become tangled and was pulled out when I made the U-turn.  The water in my boat had indeed come up through the floor drains because my boat’s bilge was full, and the water only had one place to go!  We were fortunate my boat hadn’t sunk!

Baby Christians are a lot like my missing drain plug – they often never grow into a deeper walk with Jesus because they go it alone and don’t plug themselves into a church or other body of believers.  Or they plug themselves into the wrong one for them and then unplug themselves and give up.

Notice I didn’t limit believers to getting plugged into only a church.  Traditional churches are just one of many places believers can learn from and fellowship with one another.  Other options include but are not limited to home “small groups,” apartment gatherings (often at community rooms), work gatherings (often in conference or break rooms), and in a variety of outdoor settings, such as campsites.  Any place where you can get people together with minimum distractions will work.

Churches aren’t the only game in town – many people don’t feel comfortable in a traditional church and never darken their doors.  Rather than compel such people to worship and study in an environment that doesn’t appeal to them, Christians should encourage fellow believers to get plugged in with other believers in settings that attract them.

For example, if a cowboy who’s wearing boots, jeans, and a 10-gallon hat visits your church, and your church’s choir wears robes, men wear suits and ties, and women wear dresses, telling him about the cowboy church that meets outside of town would probably serve him better than encouraging him to conform to your church’s traditions.

Jesus had little to say about the word “church.”  Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”  Theologians have debated the meaning of this verse for hundreds of years, with no end in sight.  However, if you consider the Greek word ekklesia (which Matthew used for “church”), accurately means “group” or “community,” then it makes sense that Jesus expressed Peter’s role in building the community of believers and not an actual building.

Jesus said in Matthew 18:17 (NLT), “If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church.  Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.”  “If the person” referred to a brother or sister who sinned against you.  Again, Matthew used the Greek word ekklesia.  Therefore, it makes sense Jesus meant for you to take your case to your community of believers and not an actual building.

Hebrews 10:25 (NLT) says, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”  Notice Paul didn’t say, “And let us not neglect our meeting together in churches.”  He didn’t say that because they didn’t have churches to meet in back then.  Instead, they met in believers’ houses or often in caves, out of sight from neighbors who might turn them in to the authorities.  Paul’s focus wasn’t on where they met – instead, it was on the act of meeting.  Also, notice he didn’t say, “Let us not neglect our meeting together unless you’re an introvert or unless a church or other body of believers has hurt you.”

Some people are on a lifelong quest to find the perfect church or other body of believers.  However, as no Christian is perfect, there’re no perfect churches or other bodies of believers.  Finding a good church or other body of believers is doable, although employing the “let’s show up and see what we get” method can make it a daunting task.  As hunters usually have to at least internet scout to be successful, we have to do our homework to find a good church or other body of believers.

If you’re thinking about getting plugged in to a church or other body of believers but don’t know where to start, here are a few ideas:

  1. Pray – “You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4:2c).   Ask God what his will is regarding which church or other body of believers you should call home.
  2. Research – do an internet search.  Most churches and other bodies of believers today have a lot of information on their beliefs, priorities, and goals on their websites.  Also, ask believers you know where they’re plugged in.  They can be terrific sources of information.
  3. Go – visit churches or other bodies of believers where you think you’ll be a good fit.  Once you take a step forward, subsequent steps become much easier.
  4. Commit – don’t look for a church or other body of believers for a long time.

The demonstrated beliefs to look for in a church or other body of believers include:

  • God is the one, almighty, triune living God (see Genesis 1:1, Matthew 3:16-17, and John 1:1-3).
  • God created everything, and he uniquely created man in his image with authority over and responsibility to be good stewards over the rest of his earthly creation (see Genesis 1:27-28).
  • Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God, who died for our sins, who God raised on the third day, who lives eternally, and who will one day return to judge and rule the earth (see Matthew 16:16, 1 Corinthians 15:3-6, 1 Corinthians 15:20-25, Revelation 1:17-18, and Matthew 25:31-32). 
  • Apart from Christ, all men are by choice sinful, separated from God and deserving of judgment, and in need of his mercy and grace (see Romans 3:23, Romans 5:12, and Romans 6:23).
  • Jesus’s sacrificial death was God’s only plan to resolve man’s sin, and we receive salvation by his grace when we trust him to be our Savior and Lord (see John 14:6 and Ephesians 2:8-9).
  • God’s Holy Spirit indwells all Christians, guiding and empowering us to live in accordance with his will, as we submit to his control (see John 14:16-17, Romans 8:9, Galatians 5:16, and James 4:7).
  • The Bible is God’s inspired word to men and is the supreme authority in all faith and instruction matters (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  • Christians are commissioned to witness (proclaim their relationship with Christ and salvation through him) to unbelievers and to teach fellow believers to obey everything Jesus commanded us to do (see Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8).
  • Christians are responsible for encouraging one another to show love and do good works (see Hebrews 10:24).
  • Christians are responsible for serving others (see Mark 10:45).
  • Christians are responsible for being good stewards over the rest of the earthly creation (see Genesis 1:28).

If you’re interested in helping others get plugged in to a church or other body of believers but don’t know what to do, here are a few things to try:

  1. Invite – ask them to go with you to worship services, Bible studies, and events they’ll probably enjoy.  But don’t invite baby Christians to deep theological studies or become involved in groups or ministries that don’t align with their interests and gifts.
  2. Recommend – As I stated previously, don’t limit them to just your group.  It’s not a failure to admit another group can better meet their needs than your group can.  The focus must be on meeting their needs and the needs of the church or other body of believers.
  3. Become their friend – although none of us have the time, energy, or inclination to become friends with everyone, people are much more likely to feel connected to a church or other body of believers if a member is their friend.

Getting plugged into a church or other body of believers can be intimidating, but you can find success through diligent homework, taking the initiative, and trusting in God.

Categories : Devotionals

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