10 Reasons You Shouldn’t Give Up on the Church
Or why we should have a higher Ecclesiology (Doctrine of the Church)
There is a spiritual war against the hearts and minds of this generation concerning the importance of the church. The deconstruction movement is causing many to examine their faith with skepticism and doubt, causing many to depart from the church and even from their faith in the Lordship of Jesus Christ. New teachings have caught the hearts and minds of committed believers that make it appear that God is moving beyond the church in this age to some type of new systems and structures.
The church is the bride of Jesus Christ and He has not given up on her. Jesus loves His church and we should too. I have received my biggest hurts and wounds in the church but I have also received my greatest healing in the church. In this list below, you might argue that you can receive some of these blessings without the church, but I submit those are modern individualist notions applied to the Scriptures that don’t hold authority or freedom for followers of Jesus. I write these not to condemn or shame, but to illuminate and empower you to see the beauty and power of the church.
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The voice of the Lord comes through the church.
“I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man… the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”
Revelation 1:12-13, 20 NIV
To put it frankly, we can’t fully hear Jesus alone, apart from the church. John in Revelation hears the voice of Jesus through what He is saying amidst the 7 churches. Yes, we can hear the voice of Jesus through the Holy Spirit personally and we can know God personally through His Word. But Jesus also speaks to and through His church in a way that we will miss what God is saying fully when we have cut ourselves off from the body of Christ.
The church has been given the keys of the kingdom to bind and to loose.
“Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.””
Matthew 16:17-19 NIV
Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom, to bind and to loose, to the church. Keys speak of authority and access. I wrote about this more in a recent article called “The Kingdom vs. the Church.” The first disciples hearing about the authority they had in the kingdom of God would not have seen this as an individual authority, divorced from the church but something they were to steward together.
You experience God’s presence through the church.
““Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.””
Matthew 18:19-20 NIV
When the church gathers together we experience the presence of God. Of course God is Omni-present but He manifests Himself in a particular way when we gather in a way that He does not otherwise allow us to experience Him. When we worship together, read the Scriptures together and receive communion together as a church, there is the presence of Christ among us.
You get to contribute spiritual gifts in church.
“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”
1 Corinthians 12:7 NIV
The gifts or manifestation of the Spirit are given to us for the common good of the church. Here the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 is teaching about how spiritual gifts can help the church grow. When you separate from the church, you rob the church of the gifts that you contribute. You shouldn’t just go to church because the Bible says so, or because you need it, you should go to church because the church needs you too.
You get to receive from other’s spiritual gifts in the church to be built up.
“From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
Ephesians 4:16 NIV
Here in Ephesians (similarly to 1 Corinthians), we see that the spiritual gifts (in this case apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) cause the wholechurch body to grow and build itself up in love as every part does its work. If you are not in the church, how do you get built up by what everyone else is giving? Our own completeness and maturity comes from being connected and receiving what others have to share with us in the body of Christ.
Truly in church community can you can practice the one anothers.
“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.”
Romans 12:10-16 NKJV
I can already hear people saying or thinking that they can practice this with friends at work, a bowling alley, a coffee shop Bible study, etc. etc. And to a certain point that is true. Christians can practice these imperatives in any place or relationship. But remember these instructions are not given to an individual, they are given to the entire Roman church by the apostle Paul. They were instructions given to the covenant community of faith in Rome to be lived out together. We read these letters often as an individual message but it was a message to a people, not a person. We need to take these things to heart personally but we can fully live out the one anothers in a community that is committed to one another as the church of our Lord Jesus.
You participate in the mystery of the church.
“Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Ephesians 3:8-11 NIV
The church reveals the eternal mysteries of God not only to the world but to the invisible rulers and authorities in spiritual realms. I don’t have space to fully unpack this, but the church of Jesus is much more than a few people in a building drinking juice from a plastic cup or singing God songs to pop music beats. Who we are as the church of Jesus is part of the eternal mystery. We should marvel at the privilege we are all afforded to participate in the church of Jesus Christ.
You get a spiritual family.
“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.”
Ephesians 3:14-15 NKJV
The church is a family of families or also referred to as the household of God. Of course not all families are healthy and you don’t want a family that resembles The Godfather but a family that is ruled by the love of God the Father. The church isn’t a building. The church is both visible and invisible in the Bible. What I mean by invisible is that it is the whole family of God in heaven and on earth. It is universal and a spiritual reality. But the church is also a visible family. A group of people, we refer to as a “local church,” where you are known and you know others. It is a place where you can serve and build relationships. The church is a family where you belong. Why do we expect to be a part of God’s family, His bride in heaven as the church while rejecting being a part of His family on the earth?
You receive spiritual protection.
“Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct… Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”
Hebrews 13:7 & 17 NKJV
We don’t like this idea of elders or leaders “ruling over us” in our current culture but God’s intention was that healthy leaders set and example and protected the church. This is partly where we get the idea of church membership from in Hebrews. You should belong to a church where you submit to leaders (not to have your life controlled, that’s wrong). This is for the purpose of your flourishing, protection and the reality that God says here that elders will one day give an account for your soul. Church leadership that is abusive and unBiblical should not be submitted to, but healthy churches offer protection and blessing.
You join yourself to the mission of God and give greater purpose to your life through the church.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Acts 2:42-47 NIV
It was the church together from the very beginning that carried out the mission of God and gave significant purpose and meaning to lives of the first believers. There is nothing of more value eternally than being joined to God through faith in Christ and being a part of His body reaching the earth. God’s plan for the church is challenging, beautiful, mysterious and glorious. You are invited into the dynamic community of God that is reaching this world. When God wants to touch the the world, He reaches through the hands and feet of us, His body, the church of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As my Dad used to tell me, “if you find a perfect church, don’t go there because you will ruin it.” We will never find a perfect church. Certain situations that are out of our control may prevent us at times and seasons from being able to participate in a local church, nevertheless there is no substitute or plan B that God offers us. My prayer for us is that we may be faithful and true followers of Christ who build God honoring and healthy churches. With all of her flaws and mistakes, I still believe in the power and beauty of the church of Jesus Christ. I hope you do too.
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