Throughout the years, I’ve heard countless slogans and catch phrases that promote a lack of emphasis on the local church, especially, “I love Jesus, but not the Church”, or even “I’m not a Christian, I’m a Christ follower.” Somewhere along the way the words ‘church’ and ‘Christian’ became dirty words. It would be easy to write it off as a testament of people being wounded by the Church and to keep the story to just that. We could also believe that people only say such things because they are set on not following the biblical model of Christian community.
I’ll be forthright––swinging hard to either side of the two issues is a position built upon naivety. It’s the equivalent of a divorced couple individually explaining that everything is to the fault of the other parent to their children, when it’s really the fault of both the husband and the wife for different reasons. The truth is, its easier for no one to take responsibility for poor action, and that’s because no one wants to be wrong. In using the example of marriage; it doesn’t change the fact that marriage is a key component of spiritual and emotional unity within the family structure.
Long story short, we know leaders, parishioners, and non-believers are all people that happen to all be equally sinful. No one is completely innocent and have made their own contributions to the mess. Even if bad things happen within the Church, it doesn’t give us the right to write her off. If we believe in original sin, we must take credit for the wrong that takes place within the walls of our congregation, not discredit a prerequisite our Lord instituted.
Here’s why both problems don’t change the necessity of the Christian’s role in the local church:
The Bible is clear on the role of the local church in the lives of believers (Heb 10:24-25)
Believers need each other for encouragement to one another. I’ll make a pale comparison: we desire to have relationships with people. People have dinner with their friends and go out on dates with people. All of humanity have ingrained into it’s heart a need for friendship and intimacy. I can’t image anyone fully believing that they would or could endure this life alone. The difference between mere relationships founded on common interests and the relationships within the Body of Christ is that Christ-centered community transcends tastes and preferences, pointing to an everlasting king. Extracurricular activities and earthly friendships still leave us yearning for more.
The ministry of reconciliation takes place within the Church (2 Cor 5:11-21)
As ambassadors of Christ, we are called to living that permeates the glory of God. Our lives are walking and talking sermons. In our Sunday gatherings, we reinforce the Word preached from the pulpit. The ministry of reconciliation forces people to consider what they live for. Christ’s love compels us to partake in demonstrating ourselves as people who are living as new creations. To not emphasize the message of reconciliation every Sunday is to remove the preaching of the good news that comes by the crucified Jesus. Doing away with local church ministry is taking away reflection that causes the lost to pause.
Christ died for the Church (Eph 5:25)
Its clear; Jesus died for His bride. The Greek word for church in Ephesians 5:25 is ‘ekklésia’ meaning ‘congregation’ or ‘assembly’. The very Word of God in it’s original language bears the truth of how community amongst believers was meant to function. It exists as a coalition of brothers and sisters, not as a society of lone wolves. Christ died so we could live collectively as redeemed people declaring the active goodness that God is working into believing and confessing people.
The New Testament commands us to love the Church (John 13:34)
We are to love one another. If we are to love one another, we must concede that the Church is included in our neighbors that Jesus commands us to love as ourselves. Are the people that we congregate with perfect? No. Are you or I? Certainly not. The Church is made up of sinners who are simultaneously saints. We stand fully justified by Christ, but will go through the process of sanctification until our race is finished. We are a people who need a savior, but people can’t be seen as a collective god. Still, the Church is not Jesus himself.
I’m not proposing that we be insensitive to those who have been hurt in their experience of being a part of different churches. If you’ve been burned, it mattered. Being frustrated about your situation isn’t incorrect. The Lord knows your pain and so do people who have been in your situation. Even leaders do. They aren’t immune to being sinned against either.
I want to lift up a truth that helps the harmed rather than suppresses their frustrations: we need the Church to be able to grow spiritually and even to understand how to heal from the brokenness she exudes. We are meant to be corporate Christians and not individualistic modernists. In this life we will continually experience the sting of the transgressions we commit and that of others, but as we gather on the Lord's Day communally with one another, we shall together worship the God who purchased our admission into His kingdom where there shall no more exist the splinter of sin.
FOR THE CITY PODCAST