No Christian can experience all God wants for her apart from a vital connection to a local church.Yet, many who profess Christ as Savior try. According to a study by the Barna Group, roughly 58 million Americans who identify themselves as “Christians” do not regularly attend a local church.
“Church” can refer to both the invisible, universal church – all believers throughout history – and to the visible gatherings of Christians today, the local church. Every true believer is a member of the universal church. We are fellow citizens with all God’s people (Ephesians 2:19-20), saved into God’s household, His family (Romans 8:15-17). But is that enough? Do Christians need to be actively involved in a physical, local church?
Five Reasons We Need the Local Church
- Continued Spiritual Growth – Just as every child needs their physical family for protection and provision, so every believer needs a spiritual family (1 Corinthians 3:2). We need the local church for equipping, teaching, support, and accountability. We cannot continue to grow in spiritual maturity apart from a vital connection to a local body of believers (Ephesians 4:11-13). At best, our spiritual growth will be stunted.
- Protection from False Teaching – God gifts specific believers to teach, lead, pastor, and equip the community of faith. An “independent” Christian is vulnerable (Ephesians 4:11-12), susceptible to the influence of the surrounding culture. For instance, according to a recent survey by the Barna Group, unchurched Christians are much more likely to agree that all world religions basically teach the same thing. This belief directly opposes the biblical truth that Jesus is the only way of salvation (Acts 4:12, John 14:6). We need the consistent influence of the church and her teaching to remain grounded on the foundation of God’s truth (Ephesians 4:14).
- Fellowship with other Believers – God designed the church to be a unique fellowship. Individual believers both receive what they need and give what others need within the context of the local church. God loves, encourages, comforts, and supports us through His people. The church multiplies our joy and divides our grief (1 Corinthians 12:26). When we remove ourselves from the God-designed community of faith, we rob ourselves of much of what God longs to give us (1 John 3:16-18, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, 1 Thessalonians 5:11).
- To Fulfill our God-given Purpose – The Holy Spirit reveals His presence in a unique way in the life of every believer through spiritual gifts. But my gifts are not for me and your gifts are not for you (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). They are for the common good of the church (Ephesians 4:12). Failure to exercise our gifts within the church context handicaps the church (1 Corinthians 12:20-25) and totally derails God’s purposes for us.
- To Reach others for Christ – Those who don’t yet know Jesus need the testimony of individual Christians, but they also need the local church. By God’s perfect design, life in Christ can only be fully understand and fully experienced in community with others. As we share Jesus with others, we must also share the church with them.
Church attendance does not save. Only God can do that. But when we neglect the local church, we cut ourselves off from many of the blessings God longs to give.
Are you active in a local church? Why or why not?
Other posts you may find helpful:
- I Don’t Want to Go Church Shopping
- Does it Matter What My Church Believes
- 14 “One Another” for the Church
- Let the Church Search Begin