The local church is the sphere of God’s promised spiritual blessing–the place where Christ shepherds His people through His word, sacraments and discipline. It is through the ministry of the visible church that God has determined to make known His “manifold wisdom…to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph. 3:10). If that is true–and it most certainly is–then how zealous ought we to be in placing our need to find a solid local church onto the scale of our major life-decision making process! Finding a solid local church is more important than finding a dream job or attending a dream college, for the simply reason that God has determined to shepherd His people to glory through the ministry of the local church.
When a man or woman is pursuing new employment in a city other than the one in which he or she currently resides, weighing local church options should be paramount. Believers often relocate for a job only to express dismay over not being able to find a solid local church that is committed to Gospel-centered, expository preaching and teaching. Of course, there are exceptions. The many military families in our church who have no say over where they relocate frequently tell me how difficult it is for them. These families don’t have the privilege of factoring a solid local church into their decision making. There may be other variables outside of our control (and, we must remember that God may sovereignly wish to place us in a spiritually barren area for a time in life); however, many Christians rate finding a solid local church exceedingly low on the list of priorities in their decision making process. For most of us there is no excuse. It is incredibly easy to give altogether too much weight to a job and far too little to a local church.
This dynamic also comes to play in the quest for the right college or university for our sons or daughters. I had a professor in seminary who used to say that parents were frequently torn over deciding on one of a number of colleges to which their children had been accepted; but, that they had not factored in the local churches near these schools. When they came for counsel, he would ask if they had weighed in the importance of finding a faithful local church for their child. He would then encourage the parents to be willing to send their son or daughter to the college or university of second or third choice if it meant that they would be a part of the most faithful local church in which they would be shepherded. Of course, having a faithful college ministry to attend can be an exceedingly beneficial thing–but God has not entrusted the sacraments or church discipline to parachurch ministries; He has entrusted the keys of the kingdom to officers in His church.
If we would truly note the weightiness of a local church where God’s word is faithfully proclaimed, His sacraments rightly administered and His discipline obediently carried out, we would be much more zealous to place the local church on the scale of our major life decision making process. As we do so, we will find that the church is far weightier than any job or school in this world. It is the place of God’s promised spiritual blessing.