Why Do I Even Need a Church?
We live in an age of non-commitment. No one wants to be tied down or have their freedom limited in any way. Just look at our phone plans, do we really want to be limited to this one phone for two whole years? We would rather pay more and be free to upgrade when something better comes along. Or just look at the average age of Canadians getting married. It’s been going up for a long time, but currently sits at 30 years old. People today do not want to commit, instead they view non-commitment as freedom to explore possibilities and be ready for when something they really want comes along.
There seems to be a common theme with this apprehension to commitment - satisfaction. We don’t want to be committed because we’re afraid this commitment may someday become a prison cell. What if this thing I’m committing to now becomes something that eventually I don’t want? What if it no longer satisfies me? What if it gets in the way of me being satisfied by something else? These questions pop into our heads everyday. We long to have freedom to pursue other options with cell phones, cars, relationships, and even the church.
The problem is that Christ is all about commitment. He says as much in Luke 9:23, “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Christ also gave us something to help us be committed to Him - the local church. Today, many Christians hop from one church to another for reasons such as music styles, a certain sermon series, or just out of convenience. Unknowingly, they rob themselves of the satisfaction, growth, and joy that comes with being a committed member of a local church.
WHAT DOES COMMITMENT TO A LOCAL CHURCH OFFER THE CHRISTIAN?
A local church is a group of believers who meet to encourage one another. Living a faithful life as a Christian is impossible to do on one’s own. Life is hard and Christians need other Christians. One can build deep and lasting relationships with other Christians who are like-minded in a local church. The friendly love between believers in a local church will help Christians in and through difficult times. One of the main functions of a local church is to pray for one another. If a believer is in and out of various churches, none of those churches will know that person well enough to pray over their struggles or to be there for that person when they need help.
A local church is a group of believers who meet to help one another grow in Christ. This is done through the faithful and accurate exposition of God’s Word. Every worship service, every Bible study, ever prayer meeting is an opportunity for the Christian to be spiritually fed by the Word of God. The consistency of these opportunities is vastly important in the Christian’s life. To go several days without a meal would be painful for the body, but going several Sundays without the regular preaching of the Bible is exactly that for the soul - starvation.
The local church is also where one can be faithful to Jesus’ commands. Jesus commanded the church to make disciples and to baptize them. Baptism is done in the presence of the local church. Communion is a special time of reflection on the substitutionary atonement made through the death of Christ. The local church together remembers what Christ had to do in order to redeem them. These two activities are essential to the spiritual growth of the Christian and cannot be done without the local church.
Each Christian is given special gifts to be used in the context of the local church. How is a Christian to be able to use their gifts to the glory of God without a group of believers to minister to? The Christian needs other believers to bless, help, and strengthen through the use of their spiritual gifts. This will also lead to them growing in their gifts. A Christian will find many opportunities to serve fellow believers in the local church, but not if they are uncommitted to a local church.
A local church is a group of believers who meet together to hold one another accountable. Perhaps the most hidden benefit of being in a local church is that of church discipline. When done properly, church discipline in all its stages is to help the Christian fight their sin and live righteously. Christians are to be transparent with one another in order to help one another fight their sin. A local church can help the Christian by calling them out on their sin and holding them accountable. Like a good friend telling another when they’ve crossed a line, a local church is to do this in love and for the edification of all.
A LOCAL CHURCH IS NOT AN OPTIONAL CHOICE FOR A CHRISTIAN TO BE INVOLVED WITH ONLY IF THEY DESIRE, RATHER THE LOCAL CHURCH IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY FOR A CHRISTIAN'S LIFE IN CHRIST TO FLOURISH.
The Christian needs a local church to be able to be all that God desires of them. If Christians are committed to Christ then they should also be committed to those whom Christ died to save. In contrast with our culture of non-commitment, Christians are to live committed lives of faithfulness to Christ amongst like-minded believers in a local church. As C.S. Lewis wrote in his classic work Mere Christianity, “Give me all. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work. I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self but to kill it. No half- measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down.”
2. C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity