This is being posted during a time of forced isolation due to a viral pandemic. As such, local churches are unable to gather together as they normally do on the Lord’s Day.
My prayer for my church family is that this time apart grow in each of us a longing for what we’ve lost. For some, this will be a novel experience. For others, an expected but powerful urge. However, as the church is separated, may the Holy Spirit use this time to cultivate in each of our hearts a growing anticipation for that day in the yet-unknown future when we will come together again!
It’s with that hope that we reflect upon the local church now.
Church: What is it Good For?
While some form of “not much” seems to be the popular answer to the above question the justification is varied: “I can just as easily watch a sermon online at home.” “The church is full of hypocrites.” “I just don’t get anything out of it.”
In light of statements like these, I want to offer seven reasons—of many available—why gathering regularly and habitually with a local body of believers is an indispensable component to the life of a Christian … and something to be desired when missing.
It’s where we learn humility
The bottom line: It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s about God—his plans, his purposes, his salvation, his character, his revelation, his requirements.
When we gather to worship we’re declaring our submission to this God—to his church, to the overseers he’s put in place, and to the care of other believers. In many ways, the church is the antidote to the self-centred, egotistical, individualistic, consumeristic culture in which we currently live.
It’s where we’re encouraged
Hearing one another’s stories of faith can help us make sense of our own (see Hebrews 10:25). Together we’re reminded of God’s grace and sovereignty.
A famous preacher of yesteryear once said, “Try and sing in the night, Christian, for that is one of the best arguments in the entire world in favour of your religion …I tell you, we may preach fifty thousand sermons to prove the gospel, but we will not prove it half as well as you will by singing in the night.”
It’s hard to hear the ‘singing’ if we’re not in the habit of being where the music is.
It’s where we celebrate
There are two practices Jesus commanded his followers to perform while they await his return: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
These observances themselves don’t save, but they’re marks of the saved. They are external and visible pictures of internal and largely invisible realities. It has always been the habit of the church gathered to celebrate together (Acts 2:42), and to voluntarily not do so is disobedience, plain and simple. Oakridge family, can you not wait until that first communion service together once we’ve been reunited!?
It’s where we serve
All believers have been indwelled by the Spirit of God and have manifestations of that Spirit for the purpose of serving the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:7). That is, all believers, without exception.
It’s not possible to fulfill the purpose for which that gift was bestowed upon you if you’re flying solo. You can’t serve the body if you’re not connected to the body. Rather, it’s in the context of the church that we can simultaneously be a blessing to others while being blessed by them.
It’s where we’re accountable
As Christians we’re in a constant battle with our sin nature (Galatians 5:17). Confession and accountability are indispensable elements in the progression toward holiness (James 5:16). Other Spirit-indwelled Christians, habitually sitting under the preached Word of God, provide this divine accountability for us … and we for them.
It’s where we develop assurance
The Bible teaches that growing in holiness reveals to others the reality of our salvation (Romans 8:13–14). But how do we know we’re growing? One only has to watch a single episode of America’s Got Talent to realize that we’re not always the best judge of our own abilities and development.
This is where the people of God come in. When we share our lives with other Christians, they’re able to affirm our progress. They can declare our imperfect but undeniable movement toward Christlikeness.
It’s where we see the future
Fallen people from all different backgrounds, with unique stories, and distinct personalities all united together by one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Ephesians 4:5). We worship the same Father through the Person and work of the same Son and by the power of the same Spirit. The church gathered on the Lord’s Day for worship is a preview of the beauty of eternity (Revelation 7:9–10).
I, for one, can’t wait to gather again!