I’ve never seen the idea of the church so marginalized in all my lifetime. The secular world mocks the church and the Christian world devalues the church. The local church is seen, even by believers, as unnecessary and antiquated and optional.
You can kind of understand the issues perhaps. After all, churches are filled with imperfect people. Churches often have a well-earned reputation for being argumentative. They frequently get sidetracked by secondary issues. They sometimes lose sight of their purpose. Critics can accurately point out all the problems, failures and imperfections of the church.
But, with all of that said, the church still matters. There is great inherent value in the work of the local church. There is value and purpose and potential in this institution. Here are three reasons why the church still matters.
- God made the church.
If the church were man’s idea, we might rightfully ignore it. But it isn’t. God formed the church, and He did it for His own reasons. He knew that the church would be made up of imperfect people. He knew every pastor and every small group leader would be “frail as dust and feeble as frail,” as the hymn says. But He formed it anyway. We ought not easily turn our backs on something God created.
And, I note that God’s Word admonishes us that we ought not be in the habit of “neglecting to gather together” according to Hebrews. This isn’t the word of your pastor or your grandmother. God is the one who calls us to gather. God’s command is reason enough to connect with an imperfect church filled with imperfect people.
We might not understand why God formed the church, but we can’t escape the fact that He did. We may not see the value of the local church, but God apparently can. We need to remember this important truth: the church is a God idea.
- We need each other.
I don’t think every Christian believes that. I think many believe they can be just fine on their own – no need for fellowship or accountability or encouragement from other believers. But the longer I live, the more I see the importance of other believers in my life.
Don’t underestimate the enemy. He loves to divide and conquer. He wants you to be spiritually isolated. He knows the Bible says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). He tells you that you don’t need anyone else because he wants you to be vulnerable and ineffective.
But, the Spirit of the Living God reminds you of the value of other believers. We disciple others and are discipled by others. We benefit from the wisdom and zeal and encouragement that comes from worshiping and learning with others. Never have believers needed each other as we do now!
- We are stronger together.
I had a friend who lost his little finger in an accident. He told me how amazed he was at how much grip strength he lost just from that tiny digit.
The church is described as the body of Christ. We all have different gifts and backgrounds and personalities and perspectives. But we function best when we work together. We are stronger in missions, evangelism, discipleship and worship when we are connected.
The church separated is weak and ineffective. The church connected is powerful beyond the sum of her parts. The church can prevail against the very gates of hell. You will benefit from others and others will benefit from you. You need the church and the church needs you.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a healthy connection to a local church. God will use this institution made up of imperfect sinners who have found the perfect Savior to impact you and your world. Find a church, plug in fully and participate actively.
The church still matters.
This article was published in The Illinois Baptist. Doug Munton is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of O’Fallon, Ill.