Many people believe they can be “good Christians” without attending a local church. Such a statement reveals a misunderstanding of the New Testament (NT) and an attitude of immaturity and pride — “I can do it myself.” However, the Bible offers many compelling reasons for actively serving the Lord in a local church:
In the New Testament, the Greek word translated into English as “church” is actually a compound word literally meaning, “a called-out group of believers who assemble.” So the word church, which occurs 114 times in the NT, implies that believers should “assemble” for worship.
The Lord established only one institution during his personal ministry — the church, which is so significant that the Apostle Paul declared “… Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). If we’re saved and Spirit-filled, we love what Christ loves, and He loves the church, a local body of believers.
When Jesus called it his “body” (I Cor. 12:27; Col. 1:18) and his “bride” (II Cor. 11:2; Rev. 19:7-9), he used intimate terms. I cannot imagine saying to Jesus, “I love you, but I don’t like your wife” or “I accept you but reject your body.” This is precisely what we do when we neglect church.
To honor the church is to honor Jesus and to neglect the church is to neglect Jesus. So, if you can worship the Lord as well outside as you can inside the church:
• Why did Christ organize it?
• Why did Paul spend his life establishing churches in Asia Minor and Europe?
• Why are 9 of the 27 NT epistles addressed specifically to NT churches (Romans, I & II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and I & II Thessalonians)?
• Why are three epistles written to tell men how to plant and lead local NT churches (1-2 Timothy, and Titus)?
• Why is one epistle written to a member of a local church in Colosse (Philemon)?
• Why is one epistle written to seven local churches in Asia Minor (Revelation)?
• Why did God give some believers the spiritual gift of teaching (Rom. 12:7)?
• Why did God call and gift men to be pastors or evangelists (Eph. 4:11-14)?
Even Paul needed other believers (Rom. 1:11,12) and believed his faith would encourage church members and their faith would encourage him. One message in Scripture rings loud and clear from Genesis to Revelation — we all need the Lord, and we all need each other!
In his letter to the Ephesus church, Paul said believers have a role to play in the local church and that when fulfilled, other believers grow in their Christianity, thus strengthening the entire church (Eph. 4:16). Paul further said believers are given spiritual gifts to help the church (I Cor. 12:7), so your absence directly impacts the church’s health and effectiveness.
In the New Testament, the word together is found 137 times. Believers are commanded to: “strive together” (Rom. 15:30), “labor together” (1 Cor. 3:9), “gather together” (I Cor. 5:4), “come together” (I Cor. 11:18) and “work together” (II Cor. 6:1).
We are “built together” (Eph. 2:22), “joined together” (Eph. 4:16) and “knit together” (Col. 2:19). We “follow together” (Phil. 3:17), “live together” (I Thess. 5:10), “assemble together” (Heb. 10:25), and will be “caught up together” (I Thess. 4:17).
Believers are to do these things together, not in isolation, through local church ministries. The writer of Hebrews said, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing… and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:25). Note that translators capitalized Day to show that the reference is not to an ordinary “day” but to a Greek word meaning “Day of the Lord” when Christ returns to judge the world and establish His kingdom. As that time approaches, we must be even more faithful to the Lord’s house, especially since some who claim to be believers will stop attending public worship services. To this, the Hebrews author says, “Don’t be one of them!”
When I dedicated my life to Christ at 18, surrendered to His will and learned what being a Christian really meant, I wondered what He could possibly do with such a flawed person as I was. But in the church, I learned about grace, fell in love with the Bible and started down a path to Christian maturity and an understanding of God’s moral standard. The church is also where I learned how to pray, sing beloved hymns of the faith, forgive myself and others, love God and serve people.
It was at church that:
• I heard God’s call to the ministry.
• I fell in love with my wife and life partner of 49 years.
• I raised my children and now they are raising their children — my grandchildren.
• My children came to know Christ and now my grandchildren are finding the Savior.
• I made life-long friends.
When life’s burdens are too great for one person to carry, I found people willing to pray for and with me, encourage me and demonstrate their care for me. Nothing spiritually significant has ever happened in my life apart from the church of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Ultimately, the issue of serving God through a local church is not one of preference but obedience. I echo Paul’s declaration: “To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Eph. 3:21).