Every so often, a Christian writes a piece about how they’ve come to the realization they would be better off away from a local church.
They still love Jesus, they maintain. In fact, they are leaving the church because they love Jesus so much.
The church has become crowded with man-made traditions, instead of God-centered worship. Local churches fail to do so much of what Jesus called them to do.
All that may very well be the case, but none of that deals with the very obvious point that Jesus said He was personally establishing the church.
In the book of Revelation, John said the church was the bride of Christ. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul said the local church is the body of Christ.
Unless you want to undergo divorce or decapitation, removing yourself from the church is not the best idea for a Christian.
Theologically, Christians are called to be part of a local church. Biblically, there is no such thing as a Christian living apart from the church.
But even beyond those reasons, there are very practical reasons each Christian should be actively involved in church.
We are meant to live in community.
Humans were created in the image of God. An aspect of being an image bearer is our need for community.
Before time, God—as Trinity—existed as a community. Father, Son and Spirit had a perfect relationship.
When we separate ourselves from the church body, we are rejecting part of how we are created.
Scripture was most often written to groups.
If the Bible is our guide for how to live as a Christian, we will not grasp much of what it says if we remain a Christian outside of a local body.
Think back to the Old Testament, the prophets and other writers directed their books to entire nations—predominately Israel.
When you read the New Testament, you are mostly reading letters written to groups, frequently churches.
If we divorce ourselves from a local church, we are trying to read the Bible exclusively in a context outside of the way it was written.
Gathering with others protects us from heresy.
This flows directly from the previous point. An isolated Bible reader is experiencing the text in a way that is foreign to the original readers and opens us up to deviating wildly from Christian orthodoxy.
In recent years, several individuals and groups who taught that church life was no longer necessary fell into heresy.
Take for instance Harold Camping, who infamously and falsely predicted the return of Jesus in 2011. He claimed we were past the “church age” and only needed his radio sermons.
A local church is no guarantee of orthodoxy, but removing ourselves from a local church is almost always a guarantee for a life, doctrine or both that deviate from Scripture.
Spiritual gifts are meant to be used together.
Paul tells the Corinthian believers that they are part of a body and spiritual gifts are given to individual Christians “for the common good.”
Not only is it biblically impossible to exercise your God-given spiritual gift apart from the church, it is practically impossible.
How are you going to demonstrate and exercise a spiritual gift alone? They only work in context with others.
The truth is the spiritual gift you possess is not God’s gift to you; it’s God’s gift to the local church through you.
We are connected to church history.
Christ said He would establish His church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. Why remove ourselves from what Christ has founded and sustained for 2,000 years?
When we go off on our own, we are not only leaving behind the richness of a local congregation, but also the depth of the church throughout history.
Gathering with the saints on a Sunday morning reminds me that I’m part of something much bigger than myself. My local church is part of a larger church that stretches around the world and through time.
With all that I’m missing by going alone, why would I ever think I could leave the church behind? Why would I ever want to?