Have you ever wondered why church is important? Have you come across people who profess Christ but refuse to go to church? Perhaps the thought of joining a church is unappealing due to a bad past experience. I want to challenge you today to think differently about the church and the importance of joining yourself to a local congregation.
Let’s begin by considering the purpose of the church. Specifically, her purpose for you. Since Christ is the head of the Church, He determines how she is to operate and what her aim is in the world. Accordingly, let’s look at a common passage in the New Testament that speaks to this subject.
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.Ephesians 4:11-16 (NKJV)
This passage is commonly used as an outline for pastoral ministry. Paul tells us the reason Christ gave officers to the church was for her good. Christ gave officers for equipping the saints, for the gospel ministry, and for their edification. This responsibility remains until Christ returns and we are glorified. The Westminster confession puts it this way:
Unto this catholic visible church Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints in this life, to the end of the world; and doth by his own presence and Spirit, according to his promise, make them effectual thereunto.WCF 25.3
The Church, with her officers, oracles, and ordinances, exists to gather the elect and prepare them to be presented to Christ at His return. Therefore, anyone who claims Christ should make joining to and gathering with a local congregation a high priority. Dare I say, we ought to do so selfishly as it concerns our being prepared to meet our Savior. Too often the church is viewed, even if subconsciously, merely as a social club. We gather weekly to hear a nice message, sing some songs with people we know and love, and to get some encouragement. But this is a self-centered approach that disregards the God-given purpose for the church. The purpose of the church is not to bring us together with friends for a pep-talk at the beginning and in the middle of the week.
Let me put it another way, the Church exists to gather the saints and to instruct and encourage them in the ways of Christ Jesus in order that we may be faithful citizens of His Kingdom on earth, so we should make every effort to attend the means of growth that Christ has provided to His Church. When you identify areas where your local church needs to improve, work to be an example to the saints there. Remember, we all have been equipped by God with various gifts. Aspects of the church that you identify as needing to improve may very well be an area where God has gifted and equipped you.
If you find that you have been thinking about the church in a wrong way, then it is time to re-evaluate. Here are some questions to ponder. Many more questions could be asked, but these provide a good starting point for re-evaluating how you think of the Church.
1. What is the purpose of gathering as the church each Lord’s Day? Why did you choose that local congregation?
2. What vows did you take upon joining the church? How are you doing in keeping those vows?
3. Are you taking advantage of the means of grace as they are offered by your local congregation? Where do the times of worship, study, and fellowship with your local church fall in your priorities?
4. Do you attend the worship and Bible studies determined to be glean doctrine, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16)?