Why Do I Need the Church, if I Already Have Jesus?
What’s the big deal about joining a local church? I can get the podcasts and music I want — when I want it. Can’t I have church in the woods, in my bed, on my laptop, with just my family? Why do I have to be around people? I’ve got Jesus, why do I need the church?
We live in an ultra-personalized world. Some Christians complain that church is boring and going out of style. Others point out that churches are full of hypocrites who are arrogant and judgemental. We often accuse the church of not “meeting my needs.” Or, reminding others we’ve been “hurt by the church.”
What if my church is “out of style”? Many churches are a step behind, still defined by 90s decor and overplayed Christian radio songs. Here are a couple of thoughts on that:
- If a church is preaching the Word, singing Christ-exalting songs, and loving one another, that is enough. You can get over the paintings, carpet, and song selection. If you can’t, you need to do some self-examination.
- Christianity isn’t cool. You’ll be hated regardless of how well you visually fit into the surrounding culture. It will never be cool.
“Church isn’t boring because we’re not showing enough film clips, or because we play an organ instead of a guitar. It’s boring because we neuter it of its importance.” – Ted Kluck
1. What is the Church?
The Church is of crucial importance! It is ordained by God, and it’s not going anywhere. But, it is vital that we develop a biblical picture of what and who the Church is. God’s plan was always to make a “people” for Himself — not individuals, not programs, and not buildings.
When you join Christ, you join His people.
“…for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28)
If we have been united with Christ in salvation, then we are simultaneously united to all Christians. God gives us several illustrations in His Word that help us make the connection. The church isn’t an event, it is the body of Christ.
- One people (Titus 2:14).
- One building (1 Peter 2:5).
- One body (Romans 12:4-5).
When you join Christ, you join His body.
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16)
To persecute the Church is to persecute Christ. To neglect the Church is to neglect Christ (Matthew 25:40). Most folks who say “I love Jesus, but not the Church” don’t have an accurate understanding of the local church or Jesus. If they really knew what Jesus claimed, they wouldn’t like Him much either. You can’t join Jesus, the “head,” without joining the rest of the body.
When you join Christ, you become His bride.
“…Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” (Ephesians 5:22-23)
When you join Christ, you are adopted into His family.
“…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:4-6)
2. Why do you need the local church?
Neglecting the church is missing out on encouragement.
One of the main ways we are encouraged by God is through others.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
“Outside of the local church, we will lack the encouragement God has for us, and we will be failing to help others grow in their faith too. To think we will carry on our Christian lives is therefore a little arrogant – I’m saying I can manage without the encouragement that God wants to provide me with through the local church – and quite selfish – I’m saying that I won’t encourage those in my local church.” – Sam Allberry
Neglecting the church is missing out on evangelism.
One of the main ways the world can see and know Christ is through the love of the Church’s members for one another. Love for others characterizes disciples, and love for others preaches the Gospel to the lost. To miss out on the local church is to miss out on one of the most powerful means of sharing the Gospel.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34–35)
“The church needs you, and you need the church.” (Sam Allberry)
Sam Allberry accurately points readers to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 12:14-26. The body of Christ is made up of brothers and sisters from all types of backgrounds, with all types of spiritual gifts. And, all are necessary for the health of the body. The hand, ear, and foot are equally necessary. “God has arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as He chose.” (1 Corinthians 12:18).
The Church needs you:
- Word – Share Scripture with others around you. Don’t bottle up the goodness of God’s Word for yourself. Share it with the body!
- Fellowship – Encourage others. Speak life into the family of God.
- Serving – Love your brothers and sisters by serving them. Do something that costs you something and meets a physical need.
- Giving – Provide for others financially. Love others with your treasure by stewarding it faithfully in the body of Christ.
You need the Church:
- Word – God intended us to be changed by His Word in the context of the Church. Feed off of what others have learned. You will see different angles of the same beauty.
- Fellowship – Relationships with others change you. Iron sharpens iron because this is God’s design for our sanctification. Miss this and you will be dull.
- Serving – Serving changes you. You are in need. Receiving the blessing of others serving you will make you more like Christ. And, serving others will make you more like Christ.
- Giving – Giving changes you. Nothing fights against the materialism of our hearts like giving. A body that is giving together towards a goal is unified, powerful, and growing together.
Your pastor (or podcast) can’t do for you what only the local church can.
Paul teaches us in Ephesians that “the saints” are equipped for the work of ministry. The pastor, or shepherd, is called to teach and equip the rest of us in the local body for the daily work of walking with God, serving others, and fulfilling the Great Commission in our daily life. This is God’s plan for the growth of the body. He has fashioned us to build one another up (Ephesians 4:11-12)! We need the exhortation of the members of the church. No one person can meet all the spiritual, relational, and encouragement needs that we have. The Lord has gifted us with the local church so that we can be exhorted to holiness, good works, and hope of the eternal Kingdom (Hebrews 3:12-14). Bear the burdens of others. According to Paul, this fulfills the “law of Christ.” But, we must first know one another deeply if we want to bear their burdens. Surface-level relationships don’t meet the true needs of the family of God. (Galatians 6:2)
Christian, do not reject the Church! We can’t be connected to Christ as the head and reject the body. It’s impossible to say, “I love Jesus, but I don’t like His wife…” We are adopted into the family of God.
4. What should a church look like?
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)
So, what really is a church? This first-century example is a minimum for us to follow. You can say more than this quote, but not less. Following this definition, we see seven clear qualifications for the local body.
“A local church is a group of baptized believers who meet regularly to worship God through Jesus Christ, to be exhorted from the Word of God and to celebrate the Lord’s Supper under the guidance of duly appointed leaders.” – John Piper
7 minimum qualifications for the local church:
- Baptized – Matt. 28:19
- Meeting Regularly – Heb.10:25
- Worshipping God through Jesus – Acts 2:47, Rom. 15:6-7
- Exhortation from the Word – 1 Tim. 4:13
- Celebrating the Lord’s Supper – Luke 22
- Appointed Leaders – Acts 14:23, 1 Tim. 3, Titus 1
College ministries are good and effective, but they are not a church. Snowbird is not a church. Bible study with friends is not a church, and family prayer time is not a church.
What else should the church look like?
- Being the light
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
If a church body isn’t pouring out the light of Christ into a broken world that needs the Gospel, we shouldn’t wonder why no one wants to join in. Look for a church that is not inwardly focused. The local church wasn’t created by God for us to avoid doing bad things and show up to hear a sermon once a week. The mission of the church is first to meet together for worship and encouragement, then to go out and make disciples. Our lives and our churches are to be preaching that God is good, satisfying, and worthy of worship!
What is my role in the church?
Don’t look for the perfect church. There is no perfect church! Ask yourself, “What is my role in the church?” Don’t become a consumer of the local church, a passive audience member. Search out how you can give to the church. Christ calls us to be integral parts of His body. Our job isn’t to look for a church that fits our ideal perspective, get in the game!
What if I’ve been hurt by the church?
It’s possible that you have have been truly hurt by the local church. If this is the case, it might be a long road back to healing. But, it’s worth it. Dig into Scripture and rest in Christ’s purpose for the family of God. Seek wise counsel from other brothers and sisters that you know are mature in their faith and walking with God daily. Read God’s Word not to find answers to your problems or questions, but with an earnest desire to know Christ more deeply. Pray and ask God to reveal the next steps to you.
Other times, it’s completely possible that we might say we were “hurt by the church” simply as a self-protection mechanism. Honestly consider whether you were truly hurt or whether relationships just got difficult. In reality, we’re talking about sinful people. Relationships are hard everywhere!
The perfect church.
Read about the New Testament churches, all of them had problems — even ones that Paul planted. Part of the messiness of church, the imperfections, are what the Lord uses to sanctify you and I. The churches in Philippi, Corinth, and other cities all struggled with deep sin and confusion. Every church can improve and every church can do better, just as every believer is on a path of daily sanctification. If your church isn’t getting the job done, then be the change. Be the catalyst in your church that loves well, serves sacrificially, and proclaims the Gospel fervently. Focus on portraying Christ and Christianity faithfully — the world will take notice.
“And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17:11)
This article is based on Spencer Davis’ teaching session from the 2019 Be Strong spring men’s conference. Click to listen to the audio from Importance of the Local Church.
Why Bother With the Church? – Sam Allberry