Anytime a Christian creates distance, whether intentional or not, between themselves and the church, they are in danger. They are in danger of falling away from the church, the family of God, and eventually from the Lord Himself. Some prefer to keep their distance, not get too involved with the work of the church. Instead, they chose to be something between a member and a visitor. They come on Sundays to the worship services, which is good, but have little or no interactions with the church the rest of the week.
Take a valuable lesson from the history of Israel. When they were preparing to cross the Jordan River and take possession of the promised land of God, two of the tribes of Israel wanted to stay behind. In Num. 32:1-5, we see the tribes of Reuben and Gad asking to stay behind on the other side of the Jordan River.
Their request sounded reasonable since they had plenty of livestock, as do most excuses, but it was a choice to exclude themselves from the people of God, and more importantly the promises of God. Moses quickly said no to their request saying that their request would force the rest of Israel to fight the enemies of God without them.
As I read stories like this and just as importantly, as I see it happening every week, I know there are plenty of Christians who are making the same choice. Their choice to not attend Bible classes or church events is a choice to separate themselves from God’s people and God’s blessings. As a result, they are isolated from the people of God and must fight their battles alone. Just as importantly, the people of God must fight their battles without them. We need each other and we need you! We can’t do this alone.
Consider one more lesson from Israel’s history. After many years of disobedience and struggle, a divided people of God, a divided Israel is conquered by Assyria and then Babylon. In their desire to just take care of themselves and with no thought for the group, God allowed them to be defeated. I want you to notice who was conquered first. In 1 Chronicles 5:25-26 we are told that it was Reuben and Gad who were conquered first. The first ones to abandon God and His people were the first ones to be defeated and lose everything.
This lesson is important for the church today. Stay faithful to the Lord and the Lord’s people. Make sure that you’re taking every opportunity to spend time with them and prioritize them over other things and it will be a blessing to you. The further you distance yourself from the Lord and His people the worst life will get and the closer you get the more blessed it will be.
Draw closer to the Lord through your own private time with Him and draw closer to Him through the activities of the Church. Draw closer to the Lord’s people with time spent in the church, the church activities, and draw closer to them outside of the church activities. Your connection to the Lord and the Lord’s people is totally within your own hands.
Jeff, Central Haywood Church of Christ.