How does the role of the local church play in the role of personal transformation? Can one grow apart from the local church?
In the book by Timothy S. Lane & Paul David Tripp book titled, “How People Change” in chapter 3 says the following ,
I believe this is impossible as God’s work of personal transformation is intended to take place within the community of God’s people.
We were created for community, we were created to be in the family of God.
Here are three markers to answer why church community matters.
1. Scriptural Model of Church
I am more convinced as a pastor, what our society needs are men who are biblical saturated with scripture and the church coming back to the biblical definition of what the church is meant to be. A community that promotes authentic spiritual growth among God’s people in ways that are graced based and gospel-centered, relationally and theologically driven, grounded in the local church.
I believe the church of God is not an institutional but a supernatural entity which is in process of growth towards the world to come. All its members are in Christ and are knit together by a supernatural kinship. All their gifts and activities continue the work of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, originate from Christ, and are co-ordinated by him to the final goal.
Why does this matter? because the most important reason why we live in community is because we often overlook that God himself is a community. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit live together in perfect fellowship, harmony, and unity.
When the apostles Paul was discipling new believers, he repeatedly reminds them there was help in Christ and Christ’s people, the church. Paul says, “destroyed the barrier to create in himself one new man.” We are “fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.” We are “being built together to become a dwelling place in which God lives.”
It is impossible to read this passage of scripture and come away with the idea that Christianity is a “just-me-and-God” religion. Salvation is something that connects us to God and his people.
2. Mutual Accountability
We live in a context where Individualism is elevated and personal autonomy of privatized faith. We look back to the past in the evangelical movement and seen it over-corrected the other extreme of institutionalize churches (Salvation was perceived directly in the commitment to one’s denomination that one was part of) and boil down one’s Christianity to just a personal and private commitment. We live in a age of anti-institutionalized age that naturally goes against leadership and church polity.
As a result? We have paid the price. Spending more time in one’s individual silo, which was never God’s intent or plan has lead to more people in the lie of pride, isolation, and stagnated ministry as local churches. We wonder how we got in the mess that we are in now.
Mutual accountability is a biblical picture. In order to change this culture of mutual accountability that is theologically rooted, we must first teach it clearly. But in order to teach it clearly, we must first understand it well as a church. I believe that begins from a proper expositional preaching, biblical theology and church discipleship and growth within the church.
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. We can’t become the Christian we are meant to be by being alone with God.
3. Characterized by Authenticity
Mutual accountability in a community of believers leads to characterized by authenticity. If we are called to live in authentic faith with holding each other accountable, that naturally leads us to the beauty of church discipline. However, the idea of church discipline is absolute foreign to our evangelical churches throughout the nation today. Again, no one has any say as individualism has elevated beyond all other things.
Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr said it well, “The absence of church discipline is no longer remarkable – it is generally not even noticed.”
I believe part of the reason is because we are not living in authentic relationship detached from biblical definition of a local church . It is so much more than simply going to church, but pouring our lives to one another in the church. Those we love, we will speak truth in love and hold each other accountable, which in essence is the definition of church discipline. (Matt. 18:15-20)
A church without this mark that is scriptural practice within the church and discipline leaves a church, Christ goes with it. An undisciplined church without mutual accountability characterized by authenticity without an oversight of elders (overseers/pastors) becomes a weak, flabby, foolish and unchaste church.
Why does this matter?
Without proper biblical framework of church community we cannot grow to full maturity in Christ.
Christ is interested in the process of progressive sanctification – daily growth in Christ Jesus. I am and the church is not interested in the number of disciples, but instead interested in the quality of discipleship.
The goal of a church must be to present to God every Christian “mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28)