I am excitedly and firmly committed to the local church. Now maybe that does not come as much of a surprise to you, considering my occupation and how I make my living. But even beyond these obvious personal reasons, I am committed to the local church because of its place in God's purposes and its function for Jesus' people. In fact, as I have written in an earlier blog, to follow Jesus well long-term, you must be an active and engaged part of a local church. But active and engaged and long-term are words that are hard to keep together when it comes to our church involvement; they are under attack.

The nature of this difficulty was pointed out to me one day by Mike Keogh. Mike and I were heading down to the Bitterroot to get firewood (one of my favorite fall rituals), and as we were discussing some church issue, Mike said, "It takes a lot of humility to be a part of a church for a long time." That simple statement encapsulates so much. To be an active, engaged part of a church for a long time requires a lot of humility. Humility is the necessary ingredient.

Now why is an extra dose of humility necessary for long-term church involvement? Well, it's that sin thing. Every church that you will go to is composed of sinners, and you are not an exception to that rule (full discloser, neither is a pastor). So other people will sin against you, and you will sin against others, both of which will tempt you to pull away from church. When someone else sins against you, you will be hurt and offended and tempted to never want to have anything to do with that church again. Or when you sin against someone else, your shame and embarrassment will tempt you to hide from the people in the church (I've sure been there). The solution of moving on to a different church that will have no knowledge of your failings (at least not for awhile) will appear the better option. But humility, the humility that is given to us graciously by Jesus, is the ingredient required to withstand these temptations.

For some reason, we naively assume that sin will never affect us inside a church. But undoubtedly, the disappointments come. And this can happen in any variety of big and little ways. Maybe we will go through a personal difficulty and feel that the people in the church did not care for us as they ought; or maybe we will feel that other church people (in the midst of their own difficulties) are too needy and demanding on our schedule. Maybe we will get offended because the church is not seeking our input in our particular area of expertise; or maybe we will not be willing to seek out the expertise of others. Maybe others will speak inappropriately about us behind our backs; or maybe others will get offended when they misinterpret our intent in the words that we say about them. At times we will feel that no one cares about us, and at other times it will seem that everyone is too nosey and judgmental. But the offenses will come. In a church composed of sinners, the offenses will come.

And when those offenses come, we need humility to push through in a redemptive manner. Pride drives us away from one another, but humility moves towards reconciliation. Humility will propel you to rightly receive and accept the apology of another person, remembering that God has been overwhelmingly gracious to us. Humility will allow you to overlook offenses against you, realizing that much of our offense is based to a great extent in our pride. Humility will allow you to acknowledge your sin against others and oblige you to give a sincere and necessary apology. Rather than working to hide our sin, humility openly admits that what the Bible says about us it true. [1] Humility repairs the offense and overcomes the offense. But without humility, you will go your separate way.

Humility certainly is necessary for long-term church relationships, but its usefulness is not limited to a church context. No relationships will last well without humility. It is required for our relationship with Jesus, since "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6). And our level of humility will greatly impact every relationship we have on the horizontal level. In that sense, the requirement of humility in a church is nothing unique; it's simply another avenue for relationships.

[1] As Milton Vincent so pointedly says in his book A Gospel Primer for Christians, "The Cross also exposes me before the eyes of other people, informing them of the depth of my depravity. If I wanted others to think highly of me, I would conceal the fact that a shameful slaughter of the perfect Son of God was required that I might be saved. But when I stand at the foot of the Cross and am seen by others under the light of that Cross, I am left uncomfortably exposed before their eyes. Indeed, the most humiliating gossip that could ever be whispered about me is blaring from Golgotha's hill; and my self-righteous reputation is left in ruins in the wake of its revelations. With the worst facts about me thus exposed to the view of others, I find myself feeling that I truly have nothing left to hide."

John Luhmann

John Luhmann has served as a pastor since 1999 and has served at Sovereign Hope since 2005, where he focuses on the preaching/teaching and leadership of the church. He is a graduate of Wheaton College and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is greatly blessed to be able to devote his life to the church and God's word and loves to see the fruit that God produces in people's lives through the gospel. John and his wife Korinda were married in 1994 and are currently raising their seven children.