“Why do I need church? I follow Jesus, but I don’t do church. I am fine to watch a sermon online and to live life on my own. Can’t I just have Jesus without all of the Christians?”
This is a conversation that I have had countless times over the years. The reality is that more people than I can count have questioned me as to why they do not need to be a part of a church and it breaks my heart.
There is a mindset that has infiltrated our culture and society that falsely leads people to believe that church simply exists to dispense religious goods and services. The truth is that many Christians simply feel lukewarm about church and maybe you do too. It makes sense. We live in a time and place in which you can access and listen to whatever worship band and preacher you want anytime you want. Why do I need to physically attend and be a part of a local church? Let’s be honest, it’s not convenient and it’s messy and being a part of a church requires more from me than I am wanting to give.
I want to help answer some of these questions and as I do, my hope is that you would see through scripture that in order to follow Jesus there is no option for you but to be a committed member of a local church.
We see through the Bible that God is making a people for himself. This means that God’s purpose is not to simply have individuals relating to Him separately but people that are together His.
This reminds me of the vision that the Apostle John had in Revelation 7:9. It was of a “great multitude that no one could count” and they were all worshipping God together. God has always promised there would be a people for Himself.
Through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, He has reconciled us with God and He also brought peace between us. When God draws people to Himself, He is also drawing us to one another. When He saves us, He gathers us. When He saves us, we cease to be individuals but rather we are assembled together with one another.
Now, I think this is hard for us to hear and understand because we live in a society and culture that is continuously answering life’s question with “I”. We tend to define everything in this life in relation to ourselves. There are a multitude of things that have accelerated this thought process and way of relating to God and each other. The biggest culprit I believe is social media as well as our entertainment and lifestyle choices. There are a multitude of products that you can purchase to personalize your life.
Those days have passed when we used to gather around the television so you didn’t miss your favorite show. My favorite was always Friday nights when my family would pop popcorn and watch TGIF. Now you can pretty much watch any show you want anytime and on whatever device that is most convenient.
Now, I love technology. I am currently listing to iTunes and watching Netflix as I write this blog on my laptop in a Cafe Rio. But I think we can be in a great danger if we relate to Christianity in the same way. Everything we need for the Christian life is right at our fingertips…or is it? Yes, we can download the latest and greatest worship music and the latest and greatest sermon by the most entertaining preacher. Heck, we can even have “church” while laying in bed on Sunday morning.
The Bible challenges these thought processes and approaches with two huge and unmistakeable truths. Both of which are beautifully explained by Sam Allberry in his book Why Bother With Church?
- You Can’t Come To Christ without coming to His People
We can not escape the fact that our relationship with Jesus shapes our relationships with one another.
“…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).
As Christians we are united to Christ. Jesus has given us His perfect record and changes us to become more and more like Him. And not only are we united to Christ, but we are also united to everyone else who is united to Jesus.
This oneness that Paul talks about in Galatians 3 is uniquely expressed and worked out in a local church context. Paul compares the local church to a human body.
“…so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Romans 12:5).
Essentially, Paul is saying here, “Are you a Christian? If so, then you have work to do!” You see being formed into one body gives each of us an obligation to that body (local church). We belong to the rest of the body.
Friends, it is impossible to belong to Christ and not belong to each other. You can not claim to know Jesus and avoid His people. Therefore, church is not simply a meeting that you attend once in a while but rather it is a body that you belong to and are committed to.
2. It’s impossible to serve Christ without serving His people.
When you serve the church you are serving Jesus, and when you don’t serve the church you fail to serve Jesus.
“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
In this particular text, Jesus is not talking about serving “people” in general, but rather He is talking about serving the church. How we serve the church, we serve Him. Neglecting the church is neglecting Jesus. Doing “church” with your laptop from the comfort of your bed doesn’t seem like a good start.
When we decide to take God’s people seriously and covenant with them Jesus says, “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”