“And He is the head of the body, the church” (Colossians 1:18).
The past two years have truly been a time of testing and stretching for the church of God. Congregations which had not previously developed an online presence and a skilled production team found themselves at the beginning of lockdown scrambling to keep connected to their church members over the internet.
Clearly, some were more successful adapting to the “pandemic normal” than others. As people hunkered at home and fear gripped the nations, unchurched people turned to God in record numbers. Online churches in general saw tremendous growth in viewership and commitments to Christ. It has been a heady experience for ministers seeing such ministerial growth. And yet, as the regulations have relaxed and people are free to move about the country again, all those numbers of online viewers have yet to become “bottoms in seats.” Even members who were quite faithful attenders before 2020 have been hesitant to return in 2022.
But Church, it is now past time for the Body of Christ to shake off their “lockdown” mentality, leave behind the bad habit of not gathering in person, shake off the bondage of fear, and get reconnected to their local congregation.
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“So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Romans 12:5).
It's time for us as a church to return to a biblical commitment to the house of God. Together, we are the Body of Christ, and we must be connected together, and be connected to the head, Jesus, to be effective in our mission on earth. Being connected to others is good for us as individuals, and helps us through disappointment, opposition, and health challenges.
But connection is also good for others, and can help strengthen their faith during trials. Like the paralyzed man brought to Jesus by his four friends, we need connection to each other in a local congregation to experience all God has for us in life.
“When Jesus came back to Capernaum a few days later, it was heard that He was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer space, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them. And some people came, bringing to Him a man who was paralyzed, carried by four men” (Mark 2:1-3).
The paralyzed man had all of the physical and mental components necessary to walk. He had two legs, two feet, both kneecaps, both ankles, he could think and talk, yet he could not walk. When his brain sent out a signal to his feet to move, they would not respond because there was a disconnect between his head and his body, which resulted in malfunction.
The Body of Christ operates in similar fashion. If you want to experience a victorious Christian walk, if you want to become what God has designed for you to be, if you want to have an uninterrupted connection with our head, Jesus, you must get fully connected to the body of Christ.
Connected where? Connected to the local church.
As the Scripture admonishes us, it's Christ’s church and He expects us to be connected to others, not just an occasional attender, and not just a 1.7 times a month, average church attender. Not just when it’s convenient and when nothing else conflicts with our weekend schedule. So I want to share with you that there are at least four compelling reasons to renew your commitment and return to in-person church attendance today.
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1. Being Connected to Others Is Good for You
What’s God saying? Being connected to others like you is good for you.
The local church is the place where the Body of Christ gathers regularly. And it's there you will get connected to people comparable to you. It’s where we meet people who are like-minded – having the same beliefs, morals, values and standards. When you need someone to pray with, you can have confidence that they will agree with you and strengthen your faith.
Think again about the paralyzed man. If he wasn’t connected to people like him – people who believed that Jesus was the answer – he would not have been carried to Jesus to receive his miracle. And this is one of the most powerful truths about being connected to Christ’s body in the local congregation. It is there that you will find people who will carry you to Jesus when life has pinned you to the mat!
“And when they were unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and after digging an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralyzed man was lying” (Mark 2:4).
His friends got him to the house where Jesus was teaching, but it was packed with people and they couldn’t get in. Instead of giving up and going home, his faith-filled friends said, There is another door! There is another way in – it’s on the roof.
In those days, the houses had doors leading to a flat roof, which functioned as an additional living and working space for the family. Even if the friends had managed to get through the front door, they would have had to fight through the crowd to get close to Jesus. But God made a way for them to go through the roof-door, so the paralyzed man could be lowered down in front of Jesus. The man got a VIP meeting with Jesus only because of the faithful persistence of his friends!
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2. Being Connected Is Good for Others
It was the faith of others that carried the man until he was able to connect with Jesus himself. Sometimes life causes us to distance from God. We might suffer cracks in our faith and become weary in the battle. Sometimes we lose the strength to forge forward and we feel so defeated that we even stop praying.
That’s when we need the faith of others – the faith of those who are like-minded believers willing to pray for us and with us, stand and fight for us, intercede for us, or simply encourage us.
You may be that “other” for someone else. You may have it all going on, but somebody out there may be faltering and need you! They may need your smile, your strength, your gift, your resources, your connection, your care, or simply your presence. Somebody may need to connect with you to become what God had for them. You may be the miracle they are waiting for, but if you are not connected to the Body, they will miss out.
Consider this: what if Peter and John didn’t go up to the Temple at the hour of prayer? It's possible the paralyzed man laid at the gate called “Beautiful” would have never been miraculously healed. And what if your presence is what’s going to release the power of God in someone else’s life?
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3. Being Connected Is Good for Everyone
The paralyzed man in Mark 2 was carried to Jesus by his four friends; each man grabbed one corner of his bed. Each man bore a portion of the weight. Each one shared an equal part of the burden. But what if one didn’t do his part? What if only two men had showed up? They probably could have gotten the man to the house, but it would have been much harder, and possibly by the time they arrived, Jesus would have been gone.
Maybe because it would have been so difficult for them, they would have been less likely to volunteer to help the next time. What if the man only had one friend willing to help? He likely would never have seen Jesus, and would never have received a life-changing touch from God.
There is a truly sad saying about church people that goes “20% of the people do 80% of the work.” Meaning 20% of the people do 80% of the ushering, greeting, prayer ministry, children’s ministry, parking ministry and youth ministry.
And 20% of the people provide 80% of the funds. Yet 100% of the people want 100% of the benefits. So why doesn’t today's church see the Book of Acts in action? Because not everyone is connected and lifting their part.
“Just as there are many parts to our bodies, so it is with Christ’s body. We are all parts of it, and it takes every one of us to make it complete, for we each have different work to do. So we belong to each other, and each needs all the others” (Romans 12:4-5).
Every part of the Body of Christ is necessary. Every spiritual and natural gift is necessary. As Mother Theresa said, “I can do things you cannot; you can do things I cannot. Together we can do some great things.”
The Power of Partnership
“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now…” (Philippians 1:3-5).
We have accomplished so many great things as the Church of Jesus Christ. Christianity has spread from a small group of disciples in Israel to a world-wide movement, and continues to rapidly grow. While that's wonderful, I believe the best is yet to come and we haven’t even scratched the surface! I believe that when the Body of Christ, the whole Body of Christ, gets connected and does their part, God will release His full power to change the world.
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Frank Santora is Lead Pastor of Faith Church, a multi-site church with locations in Connecticut and New York. Pastor Frank hosts a weekly television show, “Destined to Win,” which airs weekly on the Hillsong Channel and TBN. He has authored thirteen books, including the most recent, Modern Day Psalms and Good Good Father. To learn more about Pastor Frank and this ministry, please visit www.franksantora.cc. Photo by Michele Roman.