12 Reasons You Absolutely Need the Church (pt. 2)

  1. Missions & Evangelism – You need to be a part of the local church for the purpose of missions and evangelism.  Matthew 18:18-20 has clearly mandated that all Christians need to be involved in evangelism and missions.  However, this task was never intended to happen apart from the local church.  With respect to missions in the New Testament the local church is always the one identifying and sending out missionaries.  This was the case even the with apostle Paul (Acts 13:1-4). Practically speaking, missions would be impossible without the local church.  With respect to evangelism the church is indispensible.   Individually we are responsible to share the gospel messages, but God also intends for evangelism to be corporate endeavor.  1 Peter 2:9-10 describes how this works, and shows us that the Church declares the gospel be existing as a called out separate group of people.  Additionally, John 13:34 tells us that our love for one another is how the world will know who Jesus is.  This corporate testimony is a part of God’s plan, and if you are not a part of the local church then you are not a part of this corporate testimony.
  2. Discipleship – You need to be a part of the local church for the purpose of discipleship.  This is closely related to evangelism and missions because our responsibility as Christians goes beyond simply sharing the gospel message with others.  Our responsibility, as it is outline in Matthew 28:18-20, is to make disciples.  The church is where this happens.  If you are not a part of the church, then who is going to disciple you and who are you going to disciple?  Remember, sanctification cannot occur apart from the local church, which means that you cannot possibly be a part of meaningful discipleship apart from the local church.
  3. The One Anothers – You need to be a part of the local church because of the “one anothers.”  All throughout scripture we are instructed on how we are to treat “one anothers.”  These one another certainly have implications for how we treat unbelievers, however they are mainly directed at how we treat fellow believers.  With this in mind, I would submit to you that you cannot live out the “one anothers” apart from the local church.  Let me give you a few examples: Romans 14:13 (notice it speaks of a “brother”), 1 Corinthians 12:25, Ephesians 4:25, 1 Thessalonians 3:12 (Paul distinguishes between “one another” and unbelievers),  Hebrews 10:24-25.
  4. The Truth (the church is the defender of truth) – You need to be a part of the local church for the sake of truth.  The local church is where God’s word is proclaimed, and it is where the truth of God is defended and upheld.  You need to be a part of this for two reasons: You need to be sitting under God’s word preached by gifted men (Ephesians 4:11-12). 1 Timothy 3:15 says that the church is the pillar and support of truth.  It is the church’s job to defend and uphold the truth.  This means that you need to a part of this, but it also means that when you are a part of the local church you have more protection from error.
  5. Your family – You need the local to be a part of the local church for the sake of your family.  Ephesians 6:4 says that fathers are to raise their children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  This certainly has a lot to do with what goes on in the home, however this cannot be accomplished apart from the local church.  Even if you don’t have a family yet it is important for you to spiritually discipline yourself by being a part of the church so that when you do have a family you can shepherd them in the discipline of the Lord.
  6. The Glory of God – The final reason that you need to be a part of the local church is for the Glory of God.  Really this final reason encompasses all the other reasons.  For all of the reasons that we have just talked about God is glorified when you, as a Christian, are a part of the local church. 

Conclusion:

Ultimately, because the church is the body of Christ, separation from the church is separation from God.  This, along with the reasons we have looked at, shows us how important it is for us to be an active and committed part of the local church.  These benefits from the local church require more than just showing up.  To fully benefit from the local church we need to be committed members.  This is what we will look at next time.

12 Reasons You Absolutely Need the Church (pt. 1)

Now that we have seen some common excuses for not committing to the church, I would to give you my top twelve reasons why you absolutely need the local church:

  1. Obedience – The first one is easy, you need the local church because God has commanded you to be a part of the local church.  Hebrews 10:25 does not tell us not to forsake the weekly podcast, or the ministry we really enjoy being a part of, or the Sunday pre-game show.  It says don’t forsake the assembling together.  In other words, GO TO CHURCH! Be a part of the church.  Obey God.  This isn’t the only place were commitment to the local church is required in order to obey God’s word.  There are examples all over the place.  Take for instance Hebrews 13. In this passage alone there are by my count six commands that can only be met in the context of the local church(1,7,9,15,16, & 17). In order to obey God’s word you need the local church.
  2. Your Sanctification – You cannot grow in your Christian walk apart from the church.  The church is where you sit under the teaching of God’s word; it is where you are discipled by other believers; it where you are forced to live out God’s word; the church is where sanctification happens.  Still not sure that the church is necessary for your sanctification?  Here are a few points to think about:  a) Sanctification is the process by which we are conformed to the image of Christ, and so if we want to grown in our sanctification we need love the church as Christ loved the church; b) Additionally, Ephesians 5:26 tells us that Christ is working to cleanse (or sanctify) the church; c) Finally, Ephesians 4:11-13 makes it clear that God has ordained the church to be the means by which we are grown into mature Christians.  If you want to grow in your sanctification then you need to commit yourself to the local church.  John Calvin speaking of the church pointed out that “our weakness does not allow us to be dismissed from her school until we have been pupils all our lives.”[1] Elsewhere he stated, “God… desires [Christians] to grow up into manhood solely under the education of the church.”[2]
  3. Your Testing – You need to be part of a local church in order to test your own salvation.  Or, to put it another way, you need to be a part the church for your own assurance of salvation.  I want to be clear that I am not teaching that you earn your salvation by going to church.  What I am saying is that you test to see whether or not your salvation is genuine in the context of the church.   Mark Dever puts it this way, “Membership in a local church is not an antiquated, outdated, unnecessary add-on to true membership in the universal body of Christ; membership in the local church is intended as a testimony to our membership in the universal church.  Church membership does not save, but it is a reflection of salvation.  And if there is no reflection of our salvation, how can we be sure that we are truly saved?” The local church a proving ground for our faith in at least three areas: First, John 14:21 says the one who know Jesus will keep his command, and as we have already seen we have been commanded to be a part of the local church.  Second, commitment to the local church provide accountability that cannot happen anywhere else.  When we are a part of the church we are making ourselves accountable to other believers who can help us identify sin in our lives.  Finally, commitment to the local church leaves us open to church discipline (Matthew 18:15-20).  The two-fold purpose of discipline is to keep the church pure, and protect true believers from a life pattern of sin.  The local church is the only place where this can occur.  
  4. The Ordinances – You need to be a part of the local church in order to take advantage of the ordinances of baptism and communion.  God has graciously given us each of these ordinances in order to help us grow and mature, however when we are not a part of the church then we are not taking advantage of these gifts. 
  5. Worship – As we have already seen the church is intended to be a Spiritual House, a Temple, unto the Lord.  When the saints are gathered together for corporate worship they are fulfilling this purpose.  You cannot worship God by yourself in the same way that you can worship God on Sunday morning with God’s people.
  6. Gift Use – You need to be a part of the local church so that you can use the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given you.  1 Corinthians 12 teaches us that each individual Christian has been given a gift for the benefit of the church.  These varied gifts are intended to work in unison like a body does. However, when you are not a part of the local church then you are not only letting your gifts go to waste, but you are also depriving the church of a gift that the Holy Spirit has intended for her.

[1] John Calvin, Institutes, 1016.

[2] Ibid., 1017.

Common Excuses for NOT Being Committed to the Church

Despite the high priority the NT places on the importance of the church people have all kinds of reasons for not committing themselves to a local church.  Here is a list of some of the top excuses for not being committed to the local church, list to see if any of them describe you:

1. Got burned before – Many time people walk away from the church because the got burned in a church.  Maybe it was a pastor falling in sin, some injustice that was overlooked, or even a church split.  Whatever the case may have been, people often use the circumstances as an excuse for not being a part of a local church.  In these cases my heart certainly goes out to these individuals and the pain that they have been through, however that pain does not justify leaving the church all together.  If Christ dealt with the church in this way then we all would have been abandoned a long time ago.  In these circumstances it is important for individuals to trust the Lord, and commit themselves to a local church–no matter how vulnerable it might make them feel.
2. Church is full of sinners – All the time I hear people who have never been in a church make the accusation that the church is fill of sinners.  To that I always respond, “how did you know?”  The church is full of sinners, however for the most part we know that we are sinners–that is why we are a part of the church.  We are there because the church is not about the sinners who make up the body of the Church, it is about the Savior who came to save the church.

3. Life is too hectic right now – If I had a penny for every time I heard this excuse or one similar to it, then I would have a big pile of pennies that would lie around forever because I wouldn’t want to count them and roll them up.  The sad thing is if you subtracted all the times that an unbeliever used this excuse then the pile of pennies would still be about the same size.  Without question this is the most common excuse that Christians use for not committing to the church.  Whether it is plugging into the life of the church, finding a place of regular service, or even just showing they just can’t seem to make it happen.  This excuse is short-sighted to say the least since it trades something of eternal value for something of earthy value.

4. I can’t find a good church – I met a guy one time who told me that he had not gone to church in 12 years because he couldn’t find a “good church.”  I asked him what he meant by “good church” to which he responded, “every church I have ever been in gets something wrong doctrinally.  Plus, in every church I have ever been in the Pastor has just gotten up on Sunday mornings and told everyone what they were supposed to be doing.”  Another individual I know of left a church because he said he couldn’t think of a single sermon the pastor preached that he couldn’t find something to criticize him about.  There is one thing in common with both of these examples, PRIDE.  When people say they don’t go to church because they can’t find a good church that usually means that they don’t go to church because they can’t find a church that agrees with everything they say.  We are going to talk more about what a good church looks like, and how to handle a bad church.  But for now suffice to say that every church, and every church leader is going to have something that is “not perfect.”  If you wait until you find a perfect church with a perfect pastor to commit then you have a long wait.

5. I’ve got my Ipod, what do I need church for – This excuse is becoming more and more common all the time (It is usually combined with the “life is too hectic” excuses).  Christians think that because they listen to John MacArthur, John Piper, and Albert Mohler they are getting everything that they need for the Christian life.  However, as we will see tomorrow , this couldn’t be further from the truth.  When the only “church” you have comes via online downloads or TV broadcasts you are missing out on almost everything that the church is truly about.  In fact, if you are listening to good sermons but not going to church it will not do you any good at all because all you are doing is gaining knowledge.  Without being a part of the church you will have no context for applying your knowledge, no one to keep you accountable for applying your knowledge, and no one pass that knowledge along to through a discipleship relationship. When you think of it this way it kind of makes sense that “knowledge makes arrogant.” (1 Corinthians 8.1)

Book Review: The Faithful Parent

Those of you who are familiar with The Exemplary Husband, by Stuart Scott and The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace will be interested to know that Scott and Peace have teamed up to come out with a third volume.  The Faithful Parent: A Guide to Raising a Biblical Family is the title of this new volume.  As helpful as the previous two titles have been for marriage and family issues/counseling, this latest book is just as helpful.

The purpose of the book, as the title indicates, is to provide a guide for raising a biblical family.  If this was the goal, then Scott and Peace accomplished the goal.  This book is filled with biblical principles as well as practical examples of how those principles are played out in everyday life.  This is a book that, as a parent, I benefitted from.  And it is a book that, as a pastor, I will recommend to parents.

Scott and Peace set the tone for the book by providing the biblical basis for faithful parenting.  maybe the most important point made in this section of the book is that “The goal for the Christian parent is to be faithful to God’s Word by his grace and for his glory.  You see, in Christ we have the great hope that we can be faithful whether our children are faithful or not.”  (4)  They also point out that  “faithfulness, not perfection, is rewarded by the Lord.” (5)  This is a helpful reminder for parent, myself included.  Theologically we would frown upon pragmatism, however we often become pragmatist looking for results in the realm of parenting.  The authors do a good job of helping the reader to focus on faithfulness to God, and then to trust God with the results.

After providing the biblical basis for faithful parenting the authors spend the bulk of the book focusing on “the everyday life.” (chapters 3-8)  In this section the authors dedicate a chapter to each stage of development in a child’s life, and provide very reasonable advice for each stage.  For example, speaking about disciplining an infant, the authors point out that

Just because babies cannot talk does not mean they cannot learn to listen and obey.  They are always able to comprehend more than they can express verbally.  Because of this, parents need to teach their babies “no” from the beginning.  (44)

This is just one example of the age appropriate advice that is found throughout the book.

There were not a lot of weakness in this book.  However, two small items did stand out to me.  First, the authors gave some excellent advice on the specifics of spanking, however they did not speak much on the issue of spanking (i.e. why you should do it).  Not a big deal, but I thought it might have been helpful for those families trying to work through the issue.  Second, and this is really “nitpicky”, at times the two author dynamic made the writing style a little clunky.

The strength of this book lies in its ability to deal with biblical principles and how those principles play out in everyday life.  Some book are really good at bringing out the principles of Scripture, but they don’t provide much in the area of how those principles should change our lives.  Other books are really good a providing lots of helpful tips, but don’t do a good job of using Scripture (these are more dangerous).  However, this book did both, and did it well.