At a time when many Christians seem to have become disillusioned with the church and receive most, if any at all, of their spiritual instruction from a podcast pastor, and their fellowship and sense of community from Facebook and the like, let me make a renewed pitch for the necessity of local church attendance, membership, and participation. The imperative of Hebrews 10:25 cannot be ignored, nor is it obsolete. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another and so much the more as you see the Day approaching”. The regular public gathering together of believers is not an option. The reason is that the local church is God’s appointed means of making and maturing disciples. Only the church has the divine means to do so through the systematic teaching and preaching of the Word of God, corporate prayer, the administration of the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s table, and the discipline of believers (Mat. 28:19-20; 16:18-19; and Mat. 18:15-20).
The church is a living, breathing, dynamic organism in vital union with its risen and reigning Head, the Lord Jesus Christ through faith in Him, and it is a structured organization, ordering its worship and witness according to the Holy Scriptures. When professing Christians claim that they want nothing more to do with the organized church, they ought to ask, “What other Bible-sanctioned church is there?” There is a word for any organism that is unorganized and all the parts unintegrated – DEAD! It could not function or survive. Thus Paul writes that all things in the church are to be done decently and in order (1 Cor. 14:40), and he writes to Timothy carefully laying out how he should conduct himself, as pastor, and the affairs of the church in a godly fashion (1 Tim. 3:15).
In this latter text, Paul says 3 important things about the church. One, it is “the house of God”. The church is a place indwelt by the presence of God. God, in His infinite being, is everywhere present but when believers gather for public praise, prayer, and proclamation, God’s special presence comes to greet us and to bless us and to transform us. That’s what makes “church” special – God is there like He is nowhere else (Matt. 18:20). Two, the church is “the church of the living God” – it is a people animated with the life of God, the ecclesia, regenerate people born again by the sovereign work of the Spirit and called out from the world to be set apart unto God’s worship and service. Three, it is “the pillar and support of the truth”, upholding the truth of Scripture by maintaining it against false doctrine and by proclaiming it to believers unto edification and to the lost unto salvation. There is no place, people, or pillar like the church.
I join with Paul in offering 3 cheers to the church. No, it is not perfect, not yet. But if we love Christ, we will love His church that He loves. For the person who knows the imperative to be in a Bible-believing, Christ-centred church but persists in ignoring it and remains aloof and outside, one can rightly question whether that person is truly a Christian.