I mean the institution, the local gathering, the building etc….
Someone asked me for a reason to go to church, and what should be looked for if answered affirmatively.
This really is a legitimate question because there are so many options. In my links here on The Temple I have ample resources for people in terms of information, sermons, Bible studies, etc. With social networking I can keep in contact with multiples of people at the same time. I just spent sometime counseling on Facebook chat while watching the World Series, very efficient. ChurchTV broadcasts live church services complete with a time for offering. Twitter has Bible studies restricted to 140 character comments, really cuts down on that guy in Bible study who won’t keep quiet. So what do we need the church for???
Before I give my reasons for the importance of the live local church, let me be clear: Every Christian belongs in a church, without exception. There is no good reason to be apart from a local Christian fellowship (church) for any length of time. It is not optional. Here are the reasons, they are rooted in our understanding of the Trinity:
The Church and the Father
As a child of the heavenly Father I am not alone, He has many children. We are spoken of as adopted They are gathered together locally in the body of Christ, the Son. Fatherhood is not random nor does a Father isolate His children rather He gathers them together in family units, called the church.
The importance of community cannot be understated. Belonging and identity are solidified in the church. The Father draws us together into the body. There is an underlying strength that goes with belonging to a tribe, and the church is the best tribe as it is sired by the Heavenly Father. It is the best heritage available and to be a son or daughter of the most High God is the best source of identity available. This impartation of belonging and identity occurs in the church and not outside of it.
It is in the body that I find accountability, my weaknesses are exposed in community and good community helps me to strengthen areas of my character that need sharpening. The longer you stay in healthy community the more benefit you receive from this, as our real issues are hard to suppress in community over time.
The Church and the Son
Church and all that goes with being redeemed has to do with more than my individual experience. Healthy church attacks my inclination towards selfishness that is heightened especially in America with a utilitarian mindset, that is, if it isn’t practical or personally beneficial, it isn’t necessary. Church helps me destroy my selfishness. The church was founded by Christ, and he models the behavior and attitude that accompanies church attendance. You cannot be like Christ outside of the church as demonstrated by these two phrases, one said by Christ, one said about Christ: “The Son of man came not to be served but to serve” & “who considered others more important than himself”. These characteristics happen in the context of the church.
The Church and the Spirit
The Spirit of God is the great gift giver and the gifts he gives are intended to be used within the context of the body of Christ. They are not personal or private, but corporate and public, intended for the edification of the body. The Holy Spirit is the architect and engineer as well as the contractor who builds the church. He supplies the church with the tools necessary for success and for the growth of the church to the glory of God. Much church weakness can be attributed to the missing members who fail to supply the necessary gifts given to round out the body.
The mission of the believer and the mission of the church have large areas of overlap, it is rare that individual Christian mission would fall outside of ecclesiological support or authority.
To place yourself apart from the body of Christ places you outside the will of God. To place yourself outside the body of Christ places you outside of the purpose of God for you. To place yourself outside the body of Christ is to ignore God’s creative intention.
I don’t stand behind these truths because I am a pastor, I am a pastor because of these truths.