As I previously wrote on the grievous error of sacrificing family for church I am now going to deal with the other end of the pendulum swing, that of sacrificing the church for the family. When I speak of the church here I am referring to the local church or what is also often known as the visible church. While I know there are those that see no call for people to be part of a local church I am not here going to explain that this is not the biblical example as I think I have done this more than once before. Here the issue deals with more a matter of saying that the question of the family and the church is not an either/or issues but a both/and one.
I have been reading a sermon by Matthew Henry that has been edited by Scott Brown called: A Church in the House. In this sermon Matthew Henry is arguing for the act of family worship and equates a church in the house. But in doing this Henry makes sure it is understood that just because he refers to family worship as being a church in the house it does not negate our duty to assemble as a local body of believers. In actuality both gatherings will benefit the other as the family worship will ready our hearts for the local gathering and the local gathering will prepare us for worship at home.
I think the basic reason that some may see little or very limited importance in the local church comes from a lack of seeing its importance in scripture. As I read scripture it quickly becomes apparent that what is written by God through men is addressed to local congregations and dealing with the issues that those people were facing. In the midst of this one also sees how the writers so often relate to the family of believers as sources of hope and encouragement.
I have been studying and preaching through Hebrews and even here in this letter/sermon that is often known as the New Testament commentary on the Old you see the importance of the local community of faith. As the author works his way through the book he continually speaks of the other Hebrew believers being important for the perseverance of the other saints around them. Examples in Hebrews are such as in Heb 3:12-14 which begins by warning the Hebrews to ”take care” and this waring is such that implies that they care for not only themselves but each other. Then in V13 there is a call to exhort each other on a continual basis to help in the avoidance of the effects of sin. Even in 4:11 we see that as a group they are exhorted by the writer to strive to enter the future rest or persevere. This is just a small sample but there are more and this is just in Hebrews.
So the point in all of this is that while the family is God’s design for His people the church is equally important for His people. Thus the issues is that one needs to be involved in both family worship and the local church. The church should not do those things that are injurious to the family such as having so many programs that there is little time for family. On the flip side the family should not see the local church as a burden but a place for us to joyfully come to exhort, encourage and when needed admonish other believers that are committed to that local church.
My prayer is that these two extremes I have written on are examples that we can avoid. The goal in all of this is to use all of the means that God uses to build His people such as through both the family and the church. Thus let us find time in our increasingly busy days for both family and church and neglect neither. This is not a call to spend X amount of time in either as that would truly be legalistic but instead to simply make sure that neither is minimizing the other but that each instead maximizes our spiritual growth.