The Christian And The Local Church

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen First Baptist Church Spearfish, SD        Here is a very interesting statement by George Marsden, found in chapter two of his valuable book called, “Understanding Fundamentalism And Evangelicalism.” He said, “One of the striking features of much of evangelicalism is its general disregard for the institutional church. Except at the congregational level, the organized church plays a relatively  minor role in the movement. Even the local congregation, while extremely important for fellowship purposes, is often regarded as a convenience to the individual. Ultimately, individuals are sovereign and can join or leave churches as they please. Often they seem as likely to choose a church because it is ‘friendly’ as to do so because of its particular teachings. Denominational loyalties, although still significant for substantial numbers of evangelicals, are incidental for many others, especially those with transdenominational consciousness who have attempted to bring unity to the movement.”    (The quote from Marsden’s book is not an endorsement of everything he says in this book or in any other of his many writings.)  Assuming my experience has been the same as other pastors of Bible-believing churches, we can say he has “hit the nail on the head,” at least concerning his description of the attitude of many persons concerning the local church. Do not a large number of persons have a “What’s in it for me?” attitude, instead of having a servant’s heart?      People should attend a church to benefit from its teaching and fellowship. But they should also seek opportunities to serve others and the Lord through the church. This is an important subject about which church attenders can be taught by pastors and others. I am convinced that if church leaders help others get involved in their churches, it will bring a sense of satisfaction to those persons, and it will help slow down the tendency in our day for people to switch from one church to another for no really good reasons to do so. In other words, church attenders who are involved in their churches have roots that go deeper in a church than do those who do little more than attend the services.       Another subject about which church attenders need to be taught is the fact that a church should be chosen because it is sound in its doctrines. They, therefore, need to be taught what doctrines to look for when looking for a church.

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