Worshipping Where You Live
By Kyle Pope
Let me start by stating clearly that I believe when Christians live in areas
with a number of sound congregations, they certainly have the right to choose
where they will identify themselves. Each of us must consider how we can serve
the Lord and edify our brethren and families most effectively. Whether it is
with the congregation just down the street or on the other side of town, the
choice is ours to make. With that said, let us consider some factors involved
in such decisions in order to weigh when we are truly serving the Lord, our
brethren and our families most effectively.
When a Christian decides to “drive
past” one congregation to worship with another, it may be for a number of
1. “There are more young people
there.” Of all the reasons that people choose to identify with
one sound congregation over another, this is probably the most common. We all
should be concerned about who our children spend time with and the kind of influence
upon them. At the same time, we must never over simplify this to think that if
we just “throw them” into a larger group of children from Christian
families it is always best. There are larger groups of faithful young people
and larger groups of apathetic young people. The Law taught—“You
shall not follow a crowd to do evil” (Exodus 23:2a NKJV). Some larger
congregations can be plagued by cliques among the older and younger people
alike. Sometimes smaller groups of young people demand that those who are
present become more active, set better examples and take on more
responsibilities. Such greater expectations may benefit our young people in
ways that just being around larger groups of young people could not.
2. “They are bigger (or
smaller).” The Lord’s declaration about the broad and
narrow gates (Matthew 7:13-14), make it clear that numbers never indicate
soundness. Even so, we may often think of things in very carnal ways. We may
think to ourselves that our friends will not be impressed by the small
congregation down the street, with that small building. Or, we may misjudge
from the other angle, and say that since a congregation has flourished and
built a larger building, they are worldly. We must ask ourselves, will it be
easier to spread the gospel to our neighbors by trying to persuade them to
drive across town? Sadly, the fact is that if brethren would choose to worship
where they live those small congregations might not be so small and might have
more young people. Is it possible that a sense of material pride, that says,
“bigger is better” has led us to forsake churches who could
flourish if we were only present? Is it possible that the real service to God
might be in driving past that larger congregation in order to offer the gifts
the Lord has given us to a smaller, struggling work?
3. “They are more alive!”
In the short letters to the seven churches of Asia, Jesus speaks of
congregations as “alive” and “dead” (Revelation 3:1).
Jesus’ use of these figures of speech clearly concerned their spiritual
condition (cf. Ephesians 2:1-6). I fear that often we use these figures of
speech to refer to external (or even superficial) matters that do not concern
spiritual things. We may allow the type of songs that are sung or some novel
approach to the order of worship make us say - “they are so alive!”
If a group is more reserved in their display of emotion, or they don’t
have an organized program to great visitors, we may say - “they are
dead!” Shouldn’t we be uncomfortable allowing things, about which the
Lord said nothing in Scripture, to lead us to make judgments about who is
“alive” and “dead” spiritually?
4. “Friends (or family members)
worship there.” There is nothing wrong with wanting to work
and worship with family and friends we have known from other times and places.
At the same time, our relationship with one another in Christ is such that, we
have potential friends (III John 14) and spiritual family members (Ephesians
3:15) in congregations throughout the world only waiting to get to know us.
Where I preach we learned the beauty of this a few years ago. A military
family, who had moved often (as military families do), moved into the area.
Just a little further away from us was another congregation where some of their
family worshiped. Perhaps their military experience of working in areas where
the church was sparse had made them see the value of appreciating, serving and
edifying the brethren where you live. They still often spent time with their
family, but thanks be to God that this wonderful family saw the role they could
fill in the Lord’s kingdom by worshiping where they lived.