Out Of Town Church'in

If the purpose of going to church is to be entertained or to enjoy the best programs, then by all means, find the best church and drive a half hour or an hour to go to it. Maybe you go to an out of town church because you grew up in that church, family goes there, friends go there, or you went to that church when you previously lived in that town. I understand all of those reasons.

But what if the purpose of the Church is bigger than those reasons? What if, instead of going to church, you are to be the Church? What if Church is about what you can give to it rather than what you get out of it? What if Church is about relationships with one another? What if Church is about loving your neighbors and the community you live in? What if those things won’t be done within the community you live in if the Christians in your community go to churches outside of that community?

Now, I understand that you can be all-out crazy in ministering to the community you live in when you go to church out of town, but I don’t see that happening. I don’t see any of the larger churches that pull people from our town investing time and money ministering back to the people in our town. I don’t see any person in our town radically serving our community for Jesus while going to church out of town. If I did, I probably wouldn’t be writing this article. If you are doing that and I have missed it, keep on serving.

I agree that churches in communities outside of Antwerp have better preachers. That’s nothing against the preachers in Antwerp who I respect and love. I agree that churches outside of Antwerp can provide better programs for your children. I agree that churches outside of Antwerp have better facilities.

None of those reasons are a good enough reason for an Antwerpian to go to church outside of Antwerp. And the same is true for all of you from other towns. It’s true in Payne, in Paulding, in Woodburn, and in whatever town you live in. Antwerp needs Antwerp Christians to be the Church in Antwerp if the people in Antwerp are going to see Jesus through its churches. The Christians in your town need to be involved in ministering to your town if your town is going to be reached for Jesus. The good churches from other towns aren’t going to be interested in ministering to your town. They’re doing what they were called to do and ministering to their town. And we aren’t going to be the recipients of missionaries from overseas to minister to our town. The missionaries for our towns are us.

If the people in Antwerp go to churches outside of Antwerp that are focused on ministering to the communities they live in, then where will the resources and manpower come from to minister to the community of Antwerp? I understand that God is in control and all of resources are His. But what I am trying to convince you of is that God intends for you (your time, your energy, your sweat, your passion) to be part of His resources in ministering to the town you live in. He doesn’t force His will but waits patiently for faithful people to bring about His will. God typically brings His will into our reality through people like you and me.

One disclaimer: There is no substitute to following God’s calling on one’s life. If you go to church outside of the community you live in, then you need to figure out whether you are doing that because of God’s calling. If so, keep on doing it. Who am I to go against the calling of God or to establish a new law that everyone must follow? However, if you are going to church outside of the community you live in and it is not because of a clear calling from God, then I hope that you prayerfully consider switching to a church in the community where you live.

The people in your community need Christians loving them through the churches in your community. You are an important part of that because the church is only people who are in relationship with one another under the Lordship of Jesus fulfilling His mission. Living out that life together is how the Kingdom of God grows.
Here are some quotes from friends of mine:
“It is best to go to church in the town one lives in because an integral part of the Christian faith is being involved in community with other believers. We spent a lot of time travelling from town to town in order to develop relationships with others in our congregation (when we went to church outside of town). It takes a lot of time, and the intimacy is just not the same as being in community with people who are also in your geographical community.” – Mary Adams.
“I think it’s best to go where you live so you stay more connected with the people in your town and the needs there.” – Diana Watson.
“It is best to go to church in the town where you live especially if you have children. They need to develop relationships with other Christians with whom they go to school with every day instead of only seeing their Christian friends on Sunday and possibly Wednesday.” – Marilyn Lepper.
We should ask ourselves some questions. What is the purpose of Church? Why does God have me living where I live? Am I being a faithful Christian in ministering to the people where I live? Let us all continue to strive to be who God wants us to be. We only have one life to live; let’s live it as best as we can for God.

This article could be seen as an attack on some of my friends and neighbors. It is not meant to be that. But I look at the community I minister in, I see people go out of town for church, and I know that this is detrimental to the faith community in this town. I can't remain silent. The community of Antwerp needs the Christians who live in Antwerp ministering through the churches in Antwerp. This is probably true for every other small town community.