As a pastor one of the questions I’ve been asked is “What do I need church for?” I totally understand this question when it comes from a non-Christian. If someone doesn’t know Jesus then I can fully understand why they don’t see a need for church. The truth is that the main reason that we want a non-Christian to come to church is so that they can hear about Jesus, believe in Him and be saved. While I understand this question from a non-Christian’s point of view, it honestly baffles me when I hear people who claim to be Christians ask it.
We live in a day where it is very popular to be extremely critical of the church. Sadly this is just as true among Christians as it is among non-Christians. I’ve heard Christians make the statement that they love Jesus but not the church. Or that they love Jesus but not other Christians. These sorts of statements are usually made in connection with the question, “What do I need church for?”
Largely this mindset comes from our culture. We have become a very individualistic culture. In this culture of individuality, we have developed a sort of rugged individualistic mindset about Christianity. This mindset gives the idea that we as believers really don’t need the church. This is unless we want the church. This mindset also brings with it the idea that we as believers have no real responsibility to the church. This mindset is terribly wrong.
We have to recognize how foreign the idea of the rugged individualist Christian or the non serving Christian is to Scripture. You won’t find any positive examples in Scripture of believers who weren’t committed to a church. The believers in Scripture were part of a church. The believers in Scripture were active in the church. The believers in Scripture supported the church. The believers in Scripture served Christ by being the church.
Think about Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost. He preaches the Gospel and thousands respond in faith and they are saved.
“And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Acts 2:40-42 (NKJV)
Notice that those who believed were added to “them”. Who did this refer to? It referred to the 120 or so believers who made up the church at this time. What did they do after they were added to the church? They gathered for church services where the apostles taught. They gathered for church services where they had fellowship and took communion. They gathered for church services where they spent time praying. They were committed to being part of the church.
A few verses later we are told,
“praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:47 (NKJV)
Where were those who were being saved added? They were added to the church. There was never any sort of idea that they would believe on Jesus Christ and not be committed to the church.
The majority of the books of the New Testament were written to churches. They weren’t letters on how to be rugged individualist Christians. They were letters on how to be the church. Three of the New Testament letters that were written to individuals were written to pastors to instruct them on how the church should behave. The New Testament was written this way because believers were meant to be part of a church.
Here is some more to think about along these lines.
Jesus started the church (Matt 16:18).
Jesus is the head of the church (Eph 5:23).
Jesus loves the church (Eph 5:25).
Jesus works to make a glorious church (Eph 5:27).
Jesus used His blood to purchase the church (Acts 20:28).
Is the church important to Jesus? Yes it is.
Is Jesus committed to the church? Yes He is.
Does Jesus expect those who follow Him to be committed to the church? Yes He does.
As Christians, we are not only meant to believe in Jesus but we are also meant to belong to His Church. The rugged individualist Christian is non-existent in the Bible. The only Christian the Bible speaks of is the one that is a committed part of the church of Jesus Christ. Every Christian is meant to be involved in with a local body of believers that can strengthen, encourage and help them in their Christian life. The blog posts this week will focus on why we as believers in Jesus need the church.
For further study read Hebrews 10:19-25.
How should we draw near to God?
Why do we hold on to our hope?
What responsibilities do we have to other believers? What responsibilities do they have toward me?