The Gift of Church: How God Designed the Local Church to Meet Our Needs As Christians
The title sums it up!
I chose Jim Samra's The Gift of Church for my first official book review on my blog. I do believe the local church is a gift to Christians, and I am saddened when I hear loved ones express the frustrations and difficulties they have experienced within their own local church. I read in anticipation, eager to find some truths that I could share with these loved ones to encourage them to persevere in their trials.
In his introduction, Samra acknowledges that the church has been hypocritical, among other things, "and worst of all has been these things while claiming to represent God". With all the failures of the church, why is it so important for Christians to be involved? Simply put, "God designed and created the church for our benefit and for his glory". The church is God's idea!
Samra walks the reader through the different parts of Scripture, showing what God designed the church to be and how He designed it to function. Samra clearly points out the difference between churches and parachurch organizations and shows the benefits that can only truly be found in churches. He also candidly discusses possible hindrances to the community that should be found in the church. His conclusion brings the reader back to the fact that the church is the place where "God's infinite grace is highlighted". What a great reminder that the church is God's design, and it is intended for His glory.
I would encourage any of you who are questioning the importance of being involved in a local church to read this book. Although the writing was somewhat difficult to follow at times, the content was excellent. Samra does not attempt to ignore or sugar-coat the problems that are all too often found in our churches, but addresses them with candor. Perhaps the problems in our churches actually stem from the heart attitudes of you and me. Or perhaps the answer to the problems in our churches is actually the involvement and dedication of you and me.
December 10, 2010
Why belonging to a local church is beneficial
Pastor Samra points out that his purpose in writing this book is not to push a certain model of church, his purpose is to answer the question, Ã¢ÂÂWhat benefit is the church?Ã¢ÂÂ In the introduction he points out a multitude of reasons why people donÃ¢ÂÂt attend a local church, he also points out how the church at times does a poor job of being wholesome and building.
I was shocked by a statistic that he shared, when polled, 60% of Americans believe that church attendance is unnecessary. Instead, you just need to spend your own time with God reading and praying and thatÃ¢ÂÂs enough.
So, by attend church? WhatÃ¢ÂÂs the benefit to me the Christian? WhatÃ¢ÂÂs the benefit for God that I attend church? Those are all issues that need to be addressed.
For the purpose of this book the definition of church is a local body of believers who gather together for the purpose of growing in Christ and sharing the Gospel with others. The book does not address the Church Universal which is the entire Body of Believers in Christ. The local church is a local representation of the Church Universal.
The first benefit of being in church is that Ã¢ÂÂGod is uniquely present when the church assembles.Ã¢ÂÂ It is one thing to know of God, it is quite a different thing to know God. How do you experience that intimacy? In the Old Testament this was first displayed at Mt. Sinai when God spoke to the nation of Israel. He then instructed them to build the Tabernacle so He could have a presence with them. Once they settled in the promised land they build the Temple where God resided.
In the New Testament Jesus took this further when he said he was building His Church and that where two or three are gathered in His name there would He be also (Matt. 18:20). While God is everywhere (Omnipresent) He is most uniquely among us when we are gathered together in Ã¢ÂÂassemblyÃ¢ÂÂ before Him.
In Chapter two Pastor Samra talks about Diversity. God created us male and female (the first diversity) but then ethnicity also rose up. Were Adam and Eve Jewish, African, Asian, Caucasun, etc.? God says all people groups will be present in Heaven. For that to happen we the church will have to reach outside of our ethnicity and touch others. But then again diversity finds itÃ¢ÂÂs way into the local church. Each person is different from the one next to him or her. We have different likes / dislikes, different values, different loyalites (to sports teams or musical groups).
The gift of church allows us to gather this diverse group together who all have one goal, that is to bring honor and glory to God. Some will bring their gift of music, others their gift of writing, others their gift of speech or drama, etc. etc. You canÃ¢ÂÂt find this diversity by just having church in your home. You need the larger body of Christ to find that diversity and thus experience all that God wants you to experience.
Well, this review is getting a bit long. So, I will stop here. I really enjoyed this book and feel that it is a great read for everyone who attends church. It will help to remind you why we fellowship / worship together in community. You will be encouraged and I hope that through reading you will be challenged to look at your church family and worship experience with new eyes.
Remember Jesus told us that He would build His Church (Assembly). Thus it was very important to Him and should be important to each of us His children. Pastor SamraÃ¢ÂÂs book will help remind you why it is so precious and thus a Ã¢ÂÂgiftÃ¢ÂÂ.
November 24, 2010