After the Bible, there are a few books that every believer should probably read, reread, and apply. On this short list would be works like Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, Pilgrim’s Progress,Augustine’s Confessions, Mere Christianity, Knowing God, and Operation World. But even these great works fall behind what I consider the second most important book for every Christian.
What book is that? Your local church’s membership directory.
Now, before you roll your eyes and run off to read something else, give me a moment more of your time.
Christians are not isolated spiritual pilgrims on a journey to heaven. Rather, the Bible says we are all members of His body (1 Corinthians 12:27), children in His family (1 John 3:1-2), and sheep of His flock (John 16:10). These descriptions reflect the reality that God intends Christians to be part of a tight knit community.
One day that community will all be together in heaven with Jesus (Revelation 5:9-14, 7:9-17), but for now we gather together in local churches. These churches are assemblies of believers who regularly come together to worship Jesus through song, prayer, preaching of the Word, and sharing in the ordinances (baptism and Lord’s Supper).
But we don’t just gather for those reasons, we also gather to foster relationships in which we help each other to the heaven. Consider these two verses from the book of Hebrews.
“Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).
“Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
These verses highlight the kind of things that flow out of relationships formed in a local church. We are not merely a social club who gets together for sweet tea, chitchat, and a round of golf. We are in the midst of a spiritual battle awaiting our Savior’s return. We are being assaulted with temptations, trials, and hardships of every kind. In light of this, we need each other to help one another not give up, but to keep our hope set on Jesus’ return.