It has become popular in recent years for Christians to wonder whether they need the local church. The thought usually goes like this. I can follow Christ on my own and when I need community I can find it with my Christian friends. Another element added to this in recent years is why do I need a local pastor to preach to me when I can find a sermon online. I was with a pastor recently where we talked about all the reasons one should be a part of a local church. I am going to show you why it is not only important, but also necessary for a Christian to have a church home. I realize I am writing to those of you who already see the value in this, so my goal is to show you from Scripture what you already knew some of. Secondly, you may know Christians who do not belong to a church and you should pass this on to them to encourage them in this direction.
The church was established in the first century A.D. when Christ first called his disciples. The Lord told his disciples that “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).We need to ask the question what is the church? The church is anyone who believes in Christ, is given the Holy Spirit and enters the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). Any time you meet someone who professes faith in Christ and there is clear evidence (by their character) of the indwelling of the Spirit, this person is a part of what is called the invisible global church. But where does the Lord expect you to find these people? The answer is he expects you to find them in local churches. In the first century it would have been troubling to one of the apostles that a Christian was not in a local church. It was assumed that you would be in one. The apostle Paul wrote thirteen letters. Every one of these letters was either written to a local church or a pastor of a local church. For example, Paul’s first letter, Galatians, was written to the churches in the region of Galatia (Galatians 1:2). The apostle Peter wrote to believers in eastern Europe and he told the elders of those churches to shepherd the flock of God (their church) among them (1 Peter 1:2; 5:2). In the last book of the Bible in Revelation Jesus addresses seven churches (Revelation 2-3). He does not address seven autonomous Christians but local churches. Jesus and the apostles expect all believers to be in a local church.
Throughout Scripture the Bible commands pastors to keep watch over their flock. I mentioned one above (1 Peter 5:2). The Bible also commands Christians to sit under the leadership of the pastor of their local church. The author of Hebrews says to “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account (Hebrews 13:17). The journey through the life of faith is hard and the Lord appoints pastors to look after your soul and for you to follow his God-given leadership. Jesus has also given two ordinances that every local church should follow. These are Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. A Christian cannot be officially baptized or take part in the Lord’s Supper without a local church. The Lord sets it up that these two ordinances would operate in the context of the local church. I already mentioned the difficulty of the life of faith. The Lord expects believers to go on this journey together. The Lord gives the church the “one another” commands (Romans 12:9-16). For example, believers are to “rejoice with those who rejoice weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12:16). These are to be carried out as people do life together in the local church. Each believer has also been given spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12-14). The purpose of the spiritual gifts is to build up the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 14:26). This of course can only be done in the community of the local church. Lastly, yes, you can hear preaching online. But only your local pastor knows you and the application that you need from the Word of God. The Lord’s design is for you to grow as you sit under this preaching week after week. You can see why it is important (and necessary) for a Christian to be a part of a local church. Once a person comes to saving faith in Christ, the Lord’s design is not to have a “lone-ranger Christian”, but rather to mature a believer in a local church. I am delighted to be a part of the Eureka Church community alongside you.
Grace and Peace,