By PASTOR WES OAKLEY

Westview Church

During the spring of 1973, I opened my heart to God's greatest gift ever, Jesus Christ.

More than 3 decades later, that decision remains the most significant influence in my life. It was a time church history records as the Jesus Movement, when hundreds of thousands came into the Body of Christ, including my wife Sandy and I.

Many of us were disillusioned with the local church and began to speak against it. We thought there would be a new movement away from the local church and began to start -- you guessed it -- more local churches. We're hearing some of the same criticism today, and many are moving away from the local church saying we don't need pastors, teachers, evangelists, apostles and prophets, and opening up their homes to have a group away from the organized church.

Am I against home groups, home church, etc.? No, because I believe when developed in light of God's Word, they will grow into healthy local bodies of Christ. Do I think the organized church should denounce home groups? Absolutely not, because when anyone shares the Gospel of Jesus Christ they are part of the church. Home churches might not be my "cup of tea," but I like anyone who leads others to a living relationship with Jesus.

Do I think home churches should denounce the organized church to justify their work? No, because again, we are fellow believers in Christ and our lives give the best testimony when we love one another. Not saying the local church doesn't need to be tweaked from time to time to minister to ever-changing societal culture, but as long as the local church is an established work of God, it will be God's direct avenue to reach a lost and dying world.

I have, from time to time, been disillusioned with the church I pastor (not the people), but our methods of reaching people as effectively as I'd like. Neither do I denounce the whole thing and leave it. Nor do I speak against other churches to justify my church. I believe Westview Church has some wonderful biblical traditions which are solid scripturally and that it's one of the best churches in the area. In my humble opinion, every pastor should believe his or her church is one of the best, and act accordingly -- not with pride, but in strong confidence of whom and what they are.

And this brings me to the reason for this article and strongly advocating "a case for the local church" for every believer. As long as there are people in the local church, the heart of God wants to help them. I believe Scripture teaches the calling of pastors is to shepherd local congregations, and I believe every believer should belong to a local body and that a believer functions best when he or she has a pastor.

God's Word says it very clearly in Hebrews 10:25: "Not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together (as believers), as is the habit of some people, but admonishing (warning, urging and encouraging) one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching."

Local churches do best when we do what another local pastor, Kyle Ermoian, quotes often, "Together, we're better!"

I'd like to add a bit to that quote. "Together in Christ, we're better." Sorry Pastor Kyle, everything needs tweaked.

Home church and the established local church doing what God leads will grow and flourish in our midst, and we should be for, and not against, one another.

Statements of Faith is a series sharing lessons from local church leaders and members. To submit a column for publication, contact the Hays Daily News at (785) 628-1081.