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I love the church. As a Christian, I also need the church, and if you’re a Christian so do you.
Now granted, these days it seems as though this isn’t as commonly a held belief as perhaps it once was. Sadly over my tenure as a pastor, I have watched people that I love, people who claim allegiance to Christ, slowly walk away from the church, slowly unplug, slowly make the decision that they just don’t need to “go to church anymore.” This line of reasoning frightens me, worries me, and saddens me.
Why would a Christian walk away from the church?
Listen, I know the church isn’t faultless, but it has never been perfect. How could it be? The New Testament would teach us that the church in its purest form is a gathering of genuinely broken people who recognize that they have been saved from their sins by the grace of God.
While it is true that these people are now declared in right relationship with God, they are not declared to be perfect, that great attribute will only come at death. Community is messy. Relationships are not easy. Commitment is hard. I believe that it’s intended to be.
In fact, Paul writes these words in Ephesians 4:11-12, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors, and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”
The body of Christ, each part of it, needs to be built up.
It is hard, if not impossible, to be built up or to build up the body of Christ if we are alone at home. A careful reading of the entire New Testament will show us that there is no such thing as a lone-ranger Christian. You will always see the Apostles mentioning the church as a group. It’s a safe bet that Peter, James, John, and Paul would not have even imagined that you could follow Christ and not be a part of the local body of Christ. Almost the entirety of the New Testament is written to the church, and it was written to be read to the Body of Christ while they were gathered together.
If you need more encouragement consider Romans 12:4-5 where Paul says, “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” This passage teaches us that we belong to one another. First Corinthians 12:14-16 reveals that each part of the body of Christ, the church, is made up of several members; “Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.”
There are many facets of the Christian life that you cannot be involved in or fulfill if you are not a part of the church. For even more clarity, consider Hebrews 10:24-25, “ 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”
Let me give you something to think about after you read this plea. Christian author, pastor, and theologian R.C. Sproul writes that “If a person is in Christ, he is called to participate in koinonia—the fellowship of other Christians and the worship of God according to the precepts of Christ. If a person knows all these things and persistently and willfully refuses to join in them, would that not raise serious questions about the reality of that person’s conversion?”
Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C. argues this same point when he writes, “When a person becomes a Christian, he doesn't just join a local church because it's a good habit for growing in spiritual maturity. He joins a local church because it's the expression of what Christ has made him - a member of the body of Christ. Being united to Christ means being united to every Christian. If you have no interest in actually committing yourself to an actual group of gospel-believing, Bible-teaching Christians, you might question whether you belong to the body of Christ at all.”
Maybe the church has hurt you, maybe you feel as though it has failed you, or maybe you’ve just let life get in the way. Whatever the reason is that you’re thinking about walking away from the church, let me plead with you, think again. Believer, find a bible preaching, gospel-centered, God-exalting church and plug in there. Much is at stake.
I’ll leave you with these words from the Apostle John in his letter to the church. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us” 1 John 2:19