The church is beautiful. I’ve seen it first hand. Many of you have as well. It’s not a building of bricks and mortar. Instead, it’s the body of Christ functioning together to provide communion with one another while glorifying God by its existence. When the church is rightly focused on its mission, it’s a stunning display of God’s goodness and grace.
But how does this definition of the church measure up against your own past experiences? When you compare the two, you may not get warm fuzzies reminiscing over the “biblical fellowship” you’ve experienced. It may even be hard for you to think about the churches you’ve been a part of glorifying God with their existence. Let’s be really honest—some of them don’t. But no matter what your past experiences are, and no matter how dysfunctional our churches can be at times, we must never abandon the local church.
Although our churches have flaws and errors, there is no question as to the importance that God places upon the church or is there any question as to the significant role God intended the local church to play in the life of His people. I use the word “local” intentionally, because a person could make the argument that you can be a part of the church without going to a building or joining a fellowship of believers. In that understanding, all that’s really meant by “church” is a belief in Jesus Christ. That’s not what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about the local church. We can see a picture of the local church in this passage from the Bible:
Acts 2:42-47 (NLT)
42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.
43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.
Throughout history, God has chosen to use the local church as the primary vehicle to spread His name and fame across the world. Don’t get me wrong—I affirm parachurch ministries. I applaud missions sending agencies. I support conference and camp gatherings. But, we must not replace our commitment to the local church in favor of such things. These things should be pointing people toward the local church, not acting as a substitute for it.
Any negative experiences you’ve had with churches are not an excuse to abandon it. We can’t throw the baby out with the bath water. We may be disgusted with what the church has become, but it’s only become that way as a result of our unholy ways. We can’t give up on it. You can’t love Jesus and hate His wife. The Bible clearly states that the church is the bride of Christ. But that’s exactly what has happened, both inside and outside the faith.
If you haven’t noticed, the world has decided that it is OK with Jesus, but not so OK with the church. Unfortunately, many Christians have decided the same. That’s not acceptable.
The Scripture says:
Hebrews 10:22-25 (NLT)
22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.
23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
But if Scripture insists you be active in the local church and yet the local church around you isn’t God honoring, what do you do? That’s the million dollar question, right? Well, my suggestion is simple: Either find a new church, or better yet, take active involvement in helping it change. Either way, we as Christians must not separate ourselves from the local church simply because of the transgressions of its people. We are the people of the church. We must come to grips with the fact that we will be held just as accountable for our relationship to the local church as those who have turned many of us away from it.
Don’t forget the church. Let’s fight for the church. It’s worth it!