Love the local church?
Have you ever read a verse in the Bible and never thought much about it, only to have it hit you like a ton of bricks? It’s like someone brings out a flashlight to reveal a hidden treasure hidden in the dark. That’s what happened when I recently read Psalm 87:2 and then commentary in Spurgeon’s “Treasury of David.”
“the LORD loves the gates of Zion
more than all the dwellings of Jacob.” Psalm 87:2
Zion in the Old Testament is equated with local church community in the New Testament. Charles Spurgeon says “At this hour the mystical teaching of these words is plain, God delights in the prayers and praises of Christian families and individuals, but he has a special eye to the assemblies of the faithful, and he has a special delight in their devotions in their church capacity.”
For all who disparage the local church because of hypocrisy, judgmentalism and well-documented detours from her mission, I can only say yes, we can and do get off track. We are in constant need of mercy and the leadership of Jesus.
But for all our flaws Jesus has no plan B. He doesn’t allow us to disassociate from living in community with His followers for whatever reason. It’s not like He said “whenever the Internet and social networking arrives, people are gonna get really smart and and won’t need to be in community…”
In today’s consumerism, many people are just one offense or unmet need away from leaving relationship (whether it be marriage, friendship or local church). Somehow we’ve forgotten the art of love.
I’ve seen many people get tweaked by something, separate, and at the same time find a meaningful substitute to fill the void (like personal and family devotions). Sadly, the substitute and its excitement wane because they weren’t wired to be isolated.
Check out the further comments on Psalm 87:2 (written over 100 years ago)
Some absent themselves from public worship, under pretense that they can serve the Lord at home as well in private. How many are apt to say, they see not but their time may be as well spent at home, in praying, reading some good book, or discoursing on some profitable subject, as in the use of ordinances in public assemblies! They see not but private prayer may be as good to them as public, or private reading and opening the Scripture as profitable as public preaching; they say of their private duties, as Naaman of the waters of Damascus, 2Ki 5:12: May I not serve the Lord as acceptably, with as much advantage, in private exercises of religion? May I not wash in these and be clean? They see not the great blessings God has annexed to public worship more than to private. Oh, but if it be thus, if one be as good as the other, what means the Lord to prefer one before the other? To what purpose did the Lord choose the gates of Zion, to place his name there, if he might have been worshipped as well in the dwellings of Jacob? How do men of this conceit run counter to the Lord? He prefers the gates of Zion, not only before one or some, but before all the dwellings of Jacob; and they prefer one such dwelling before the gates of Zion.—David Clarkson.
I say this at a time when many people at Smoky Hill Vineyard are encountering Jesus in a fresh way, experiencing real community, and many new people are being drawn in. It’s awesome! And I’m aware of many other local churches who are thriving in the same way.
Hopefully you will be encouraged by these words to press in and work through whatever obstacles you encounter so you can enjoy all God has for you in the context of community.