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The Local Church: No Substitute

The Local Church: No Substitute

Nothing can stand in for the local church.

While Christian campus groups and service clubs can provide excellent opportunities for fellowship and ministry, they can’t take the place of the local church. And if you’re considering cross-cultural ministry, being involved in a body of believers in your community is especially vital. Here’s why.

Opportunities for Ministry Experience

Local churches provide a wealth of opportunities to use your skills in ministry, as well as to discover both how God’s gifted you and areas in which you need to grow. As you serve alongside others, you’ll gain experience that will prepare you to be more effective in ministry wherever God leads you to serve in the future.

We see this model in Acts as Barnabas brings Paul (also called Saul) to the church at Antioch not just for a visit but to serve and be part of the local body of Christ: “So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people.” (Acts 11:26b NIV) This time of service in the context of the local church helped to equip Paul for his numerous missionary journeys.

How are you using your gifts and skills in the context of the church? If you’re not involved in ministry at church, look for an opportunity—big or small—and sign up! Volunteer to serve as a greeter, assist with a Sunday school class or get involved in children’s ministry (a great place to start if you’re interested in teaching!). Be a willing participant, show up and ask God to use you and equip you.

The Setting for God’s Leading

The church is the context for God’s leading in our lives. Throughout his epistles, Paul makes it clear that spiritual gifts are designed to benefit the body of Christ. As we use our gifts to serve the church, fellow believers recognize how the Lord has uniquely equipped us and encourage us to serve as He is leading us.

While God can certainly guide us through any means He chooses, Scripture gives us the example of His calling within the local body of Christ as He used the prophets and teachers at the church at Antioch:

“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” (Acts 13:2-3 NIV)

Within the local church, individual believers are sent out to fill specific ministry roles, including work among the least-reached. And it’s through the body that those who are sent are supported through prayer.

Are you seeking God’s leading through your local church? If you’re attending but haven’t told your church family that you’re considering cross-cultural ministry, connect with your pastor, an elder or another church leader and ask them to come alongside you on your journey.

Mutual Growth

Being part of a local body of Christ involves being part of a community of believers that seeks to encourage one another in faith and help one another grow. Paul describes this as he instructs the Colossians: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” (Colossians 3:16 NIV)

One of the wonderful things about the mutual admonishment Paul describes is that it takes place in the setting of the local church. Unlike a campus group comprised of people of similar stages in life, the church is made up of individuals and families of all ages, of those who’ve just recently become believers and those who’ve walked with Jesus for decades. This diversity facilitates greater opportunities for growth.

How are you helping others in your church grow in Christ? How are you allowing others to help you become more like Him? Intentionally build relationships not only with people who are like you but with those who are in different stages of their lives and walks with the Lord. Ask God to give you opportunities to encourage one another.

Discipleship and Mentorship

In addition to facilitating mutual encouragement and growth, the church is where mature believers invest in the next generation, building into them and helping them learn to serve effectively. Just as Paul mentored and trained Timothy, there are people in the local body of Christ who can pour into you and help you prepare well for your future ministry.

As you consider how you will answer Jesus’ commission to make disciples of all nations, be sure that you’re being discipled so that you can in turn build into others. Invite mature believers to invest in you so you can follow the instructions Paul gave to Timothy: “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 1:13 NIV)

Who in your church could invest in you as you consider missions? Prayerfully and proactively seek discipleship and mentorship relationships, and ask God to use the input of mature believers to prepare you for future ministry.

If you want to help build the Church among the least-reached, be involved in the local church now! Don’t miss the opportunity to discover your giftings, grow in Christ and benefit from the guidance of mature believers in ways that take place only in the context of the body of Christ. There’s no substitute.

Whether you’re fully plugged into a local body of Christ or are still searching for a church, we’d love to come alongside you as you consider cross-cultural ministry! Email [email protected] to connect with us.

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