Do you know what I don’t hear? I never hear about someone leaving the local church because that church would be so much better without him. It may happen, but I haven’t run into it. Instead I hear, “I don’t get fed,” “Nobody cares,” “The music is awful,” or “It is full of hypocrites.” Given the declining attendance and social commentary, one might conclude that the local church isn’t all that important in the eyes of the average American.
Maybe you are ready to pull the plug on church commitment. Would you indulge me for just a moment?
As I understand it, we can tend to see the negative side of an issue fairly easily. I’m not referring to the awful things reported in the news, that appeal to our curiosity. I’m talking about that critical side of our nature. The side that is inclined to say, “The problem with that is…” or something similar. It strikes me that human nature is endowed with an uncanny ability to sense injustice. That in itself is a wonderful attribute, but the problem is…Oh! There I go again!
Seriously, do we need the local church assembly or no? Yes, we do, more than you may know!
How can we represent Christ in the fullness of His intention without the body of believers? He said Himself, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples [aka Christians]” (Jn 13:35 NLT). As I see it, the Church requires two things to be the Church. It needs Christ as the Head, and you and me (the believers) as the body. A believer cannot be a Christian (or disciple) apart from the Church. That would be an oxymoron. He has been grafted into one body by God’s Spirit. We call that body the Church.
This Universal Church is worldwide and growing in some of the most unlikely places today, but it is also made up of an uncountable number of local assemblies. If the Universal Church is to be “the pillar and foundation of the truth” in the world (1 Tim:3:15), the same must necessarily be said of the local churches. After all, without the local bodies the universal one would not exist. Therefore, it must be concluded that the value of the local church is inestimable.
Can a follower of Christ live out his or her faith in isolation from the local body while rightly claiming unity with the Universal Body? Remember the words of the Apostle John, “And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” (1 Jn 4:21).
Are you wrestling with your commitment to the local church? Consider that without being a part of the body of believers (which includes the local assembly) you cannot be a true disciple of Christ. There are no disciples who are above the command to love one another (Jn 13:34-35). You and I need all those other believers, just as much as they need us.
Before you decide to divorce yourself from the greater number of Christians in your local area, would you try to see the glass as half-full? Consider that when we fail, and we often do, we are revealed to the world as the objects of God’s mercy. When we succeed at His commands, He is seen as the One whom we honor. In all of this, Jesus is honored, and God is revealed to the world as the Source of the Truth we proclaim.
Conversely, when we separate from the assembly, we dishonor Him and His wishes that we love one another. How can we lay hold of the claim to be the pillar and ground of the truth, if we are postured against the Truth the Church is to reveal?
If you are a member of a local assembly, link arms with your brothers and sisters and lead by example. Sure, we have differences, but honor your leaders and work to serve Christ in unity. Then our churches will rightly reflect the Truth that we were intended to proclaim together. The local church is far too important to dismiss.