Church is the chosen vehicle of God as a focal point to display His glory to the nation.
In Ephesians the apostle Paul speaks of, “through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” that all might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God!
However though, as a pastor, we wish it was that simple. The awareness of the church is way under the radar.
We experience this Sunday by Sunday….. We see this personally, experientially, anecdotally and corporately. The church becomes just another commitment to juggle a of programs, big events, and teaching from one person take a backseat of joyless legalism and lifeless moralism. People think it’s ok to be a Christian and regularly miss corporate worship gathering of a local body.
Why does it matter? It address a legitimate problem that we see in Evangelical Christianity. These are five biblical pointer that we must recognize as a church for us to understand this importance regarding belonging to a church.
There are two extremes that the churches have to deal with the past 2000 years. One extreme of institutionalize churches. One’s salvation was perceived directly in the commitment to one’s denomination or that one was part of.
Evangelical movement happened and corrected that, though perhaps over-corrected that in the second half of the 20th century. We boil down one’s Christianity to, “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” that is an appropriate question but the culture has wised up. They know they need to answer, “Yes” that question so we stop pressuring and asking that questions.
We ask the follow-up question and ask, “What church are you part of?” people are not used to that question. We must realize our spiritual commitment of our lives are rooted within the local church.
Just a personal and private commitment? Part of it is because we live in an individualistic idea of, “This is how I will spend my time the way I want it and you have no say to that” that has tremendously affected the way how we understand the church in the west.
Church is not a meeting you attend or a place you enter. It’s an identity that is ours in Christ. An identity that shapes the whole of life so that life and mission become everything within us. Discipleship doesn’t happen apart from the context of local church. There is no such thing as a solo-discipleship as it’s a foreign idea.
You hear statements such as, “We all are part of the body of Christ. We are free to go wherever we want”
You are disconnecting yourself from accountable relationship of church membership here! (Matt. 18:15-16) Jesus assumes that His disciples will belong to a church. When a disciple is out of step with his brother, a church will be there to love and pursue and discipline that person under submission. (Hebrews 13:18)
We see in scripture, the primary means of a Christian, believer or individual grow is the proclamation of God’s Word. If people put aside Sunday morning and go elsewhere, they are forfeiting God’s design for helping them to grow spiritually.
“Well, why can’t I watch a sermons online in my living room?” Sure, you can hear great teaching in a variety of ways. But listening online is different from listening in the service with your own pastor. Conferences are great as well, however they are not your pastor. We will never experience the same with a flat screen TV. The person may be a great speaker but he is not the pastor of the flock who knows specific needs of the individual or the church. It must come down to this. The Lord brings and keeps his people in covenant fellowship with himself by his Spirit and his Word (Isa. 59:21)
I believe many even within the evangelical protestant churches throughout the nation have confused the doctrine of the church and the nature/function of the church. There is a greater discontinuity or disconnect between perceived topic and even the actual importance of the topic.
We must grasp a better understanding of not only church universal but more importantly, church local. Only a small glimpse where we see the NT speaks of the church universal. Most often they are speaking of church local of group of people in covenant community in together.
The Local church is a group of people covenanted together to gather regularly for corporate worship, celebration of the ordinances, ministering of the Word of God, leadership of qualified leaders, submissive to the body on mission for Christ and the world.
Local church is not an option, it’s God primary way for believers to grow love for Him and love for fellow believer but they bypass for something that was a design that is so precious to Him. In the NT, to be a Christian means to be saved into the church, baptized into the church and immediately part of a covenantal community together. We don’t see free agent Christians roaming around the New Testament. (Acts 18:16-17)
Why is it important? Because it is biblical! Skipping church or not being part of a church is disobedience. Where do we find this? Hebrews 10:24-25 makes it clear,
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
“I love Jesus but I don’t like the church. I will never leave Jesus but I’m done with the church” people who make such a statement are walking away from Jesus. In a sense, they are saying, “I love Jesus but I don’t submit to his Word” is a lie. “He who loves me will keep my commandment.” (John 14:15)
Jesus established the Apostles, (Ephesians 2:20) to be the foundation of the church and build it with prophets, teachers and pastors and ordained men, (1 Timothy 3:1-7) that there will be a structure of local churches in the body of Christ that is called the church.
What we spend our time on shows what we truly value. You make a statement to the world, that God is not a priority. Therefore, as a family what we spend time on, our thoughts on, our energy on, making decision on then it displays what our priorities and values are. We are making a claim that sin is more valuable than God.
So, if we decide on a Sunday morning as we rise and say, “I am going to decide rather to sleep in, go to a sporting event or mow a lawn” then in essence by action, we are saying that is more important than what Jesus has done for us over the power of sin.
On Christianity Today mentions children’s sports have become the biggest challenge to church attendance for American families. My immediate thought will be in this case is, “Show me in scripture where it justifies the way to gather together for worship?” At least in the New Testament, we don’t see that. It is to pray together, sing together, read God’s Word together, hear the preaching of His Word together. (Acts 2:42)
Danny Akin, President of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary said it well in an interview with ERLC. Athletics vs. Church? “Not a good decision to allow athletics to over ride, circumvent and get in the way of your commitment to Christ and the church. If you do (as parents), then the children will see church involvement is something we do only when it’s convenient and not something we do as a priority of life.”
One of the lessons we can learn from the evangelical movement is that its central weakness was not epistemological. Its central weakness was not its commitment to the core doctrines of the Christian faith. It’s central weakness was ecclesiological – an undervaluing of the local church in particular. – Albert Mohler
My ambition is not to shame the church, guilt the church, criticize the church as I am as a pastor, I am for the church, but instead to heighten the concern on the front of our minds as we shepherd, we see the urgency regenerate meaning of the understanding of the local church.