Commitment to the Local Church
Last night in the Leadership Development & Training class, I was teaching on the importance of the local church.
We traced the etymology of the term “church” throughout the Scriptures and extra-biblical usage. The church is properly defined as the Body of Christ composed of all those who are redeemed by God’s grace through faith in the finished work of Christ Jesus and baptized into that Body by the Holy Spirit. The “local” church is the expression of the Body of Christ in a given location. Participation in the ministry of the church is essential for the health of individual Christians. This means that as Christians are born again, it is necessary that they become actively engaged in serving the Lord Jesus Christ by using their spiritual gift for the common good — to the edifying of the rest of the believers that form the local church.
The enemy of the Christian and the Church, seeks to engender aberrant perspectives regarding the church. Some of these perspectives include:
- Church does not need me — it will do fine whether or not I am involved (as if the church exists independently of its members).
- I do not need the church — I will do fine whether or not I am involved (as if a person can relate to Christ independently of His Body).
- The church does not meet my needs — so I will “shop around” until I find a church that suits me (as if the church exists strictly for the benefit of the individual).
There is a need to recognize certain sacred realities that confront us when we begin to believe the lies of the enemy:
- There is no perfect church: The church is an assembly of people who are born again, yet they remain in the flesh and struggle to walk in the Spirit. There will always be deficiencies until we become the Church Triumphant in glory.
- Each believer helps to perfect the church: Each believer is deliberately placed within local church by God’s Spirit and gifted to help make that church complete. Whatever deficiencies you see in the church or its ministries, God has placed you there in order to help make the church what it ought to be. If people opt to leave a church because they feel that certain ministries are deficient, who will help those ministries to become effective?
- The church is essential to individual sanctification: The Scriptures fail to present a scenario where a person is spiritually healthy and fruitful independently of involvement and accountability to a local church and its spiritual leadership. A church-less believer is an oxymoron as far as Scripture is concerned.
- Church membership is a covenantal relationship among believers: The ability to serve one another unfettered requires that we come together and mutually commit to helping one another grow in grace and in the work of the Lord. This covenant becomes the basis for effective ministry and should only be broken due to a church’s unfaithfulness to Christ and His Word.
As we consider these realities, we are oriented to the various ways that the effectiveness of the local church is consistently undermined by the enemy of God. We must make sure that we carefully restrain our thinking to remain faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ and to His Body.