Pastor Billy Shaw
You may wonder why churches and pastors emphasize the importance of belonging to a local church so much. Are they just interested in self-promotion? Do they have ulterior, or even deceptive motives? Can’t you just be a happy Christian and please God without belonging to a local congregation?
These are all wonderful questions, for which the Bible (as always) has the answers.
Arguments against being a part of a local church are not new, yet they are many. I can worship just as well sitting in my pajamas, sipping coffee, watching a service on YouTube. Churches are full of hypocrites. Churches just want your money. I had a bad experience in church. I don’t trust pastors. And if we pastors are honest, we must admit that there are many churches and pastors who have hurt people.
Let’s consult the Word of God for clarity on this important issue. One of the most quoted verses on this topic is Hebrews 10:25, and I will cite verse 24 also for context. “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Heb. 10:24-25) I remember discovering that the meaning of the verb translated “forsaking” here means “abandoning completely.” The verse doesn’t mean we can’t miss church for vacation or sickness. It just means that it is not God’s plan for us never to go to church.
In light of all the downsides to church participation that we have already mentioned, you may wonder why our participation in church life is so important to God. For one thing, Hebrews 10:24 tells us that we are important for other Christians’ success, and they are important for ours. We are to provoke one another unto love and good works. There are times that I need an extra encouragement from fellow believers to keep on keeping on, not to get weary in well doing, and to demonstrate neighborly love. There may be times where other believers need the same from me. This kind of mutual encouragement is a big part of why God wants us to be connected to a church.
Another approach to the question looks at the example of Jesus. Corporate worship was a thing long before God established His church. Luke 4:16 tells us (speaking of Jesus), “So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.” If it was Jesus’s custom to attend weekly worship assembly wherever He was at the time, why would we, as His followers, not have the same custom? The example of the early church is similar. The Bible shows that the early church gathered for corporate worship at least on a weekly basis (Acts 20:7, 1 Cor. 16:2).
It is clear from Scripture that the norm is for believers to participate regularly in a local body with other believers. The reasons for this are many. We are members of one another. An eye cannot accomplish much outside the context of a body; the same can be said for hands, feet, ears, and so on.
This does not mean that churches and pastors are perfect. We know better than that, don’t we? The pastor I had early in life used to say, “You won’t find a perfect church. If you do, don’t join it, because you’ll ruin it.” Churches are made up of imperfect people. Christ is the hero. Find a church that preaches the Gospel, disciples new converts, gives you opportunities to use your gifts, and challenges you toward bold personal growth. Obviously, this blog post has only scratched the surface on this subject. May I suggest you read Pastor Rick Warren’s 40 Days of Community - Better Together: What on Earth are We Here For? (2010, Zondervan).
We invite you to attend one of our weekly worship services where you will hear uplifting and engaging music and encouraging messages from God’s Word. You can also contact us through our website with any prayer request you have. We look forward to continued ministry to you.
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