I didn't grow up attending church regularly. I did attend a neighborhood church on Easter and Christmas if my parents took me. But it seemed like something you did for the holidays.
It wasn't until I was 18 years old and invited by a friend that church suddenly became personal. It was a much larger church and still seemed irrelevant at first. However, the fact that my friend liked it made me curious.
My friend's interest in me gave me the time and space I needed to see that the kingdom of God was far bigger than my small and limited notion of church. That didn't happen overnight; in fact, it took months.
I met people and experienced moments that convinced me there was something about "church" that was far more than a holiday tradition. Later that year, I said yes to Jesus' invitation to eternal life. None of this would have happened without the church in some form, shape, or expression.
The church is made up of people who invite you in, point to Jesus, and encourage your faith.
It's that simple. It's been my experience that when you disconnect from the church (the people), you begin to drift spiritually. That's not always the case, but in the majority of situations, that represents reality.
Church has changed a lot since I was 18, but the essence is the same. The methods are radically different, but the message is the same. The current culture is dramatically different, but the human condition remains the same.
We need Christ and we need each other–that truth won't change. The church is the greatest force on earth to that end.
Here are four good reasons it's important to be part of a local church.
We tend to drift spiritually when not connected relationally.
A church is not required for salvation and spiritual growth, but without it, both become more challenging. Without the Church as the foundation (the organized body of Christ in some fashion), the message of Jesus travels much slower.
When we drift from a community of believers, the human mind begins to rationalize. "I love God, and he loves me. I don't need to go to church." That's true, but it's only a half-truth, and half-truths often lead us down a dangerous road.
The other half is the overwhelming evidence that when you are connected to a group of committed believers, the likelihood of your continued spiritual growth is exponentially higher.
Christianity was never intended to be an independent endeavor.
The nature of Christianity is essentially relational. The primary relationship is between God and man, God and woman. That relationship was perfect until broken by sin (Genesis 3:1-19). The relationship was restored by a covenant (relationship), through Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3). That covenant promise was fulfilled through Christ, also a personal relationship.
Christianity was never intended to be a "Lone Ranger" proposition. We need each other. There is no perfect church, and there are no perfect Christians, but together we help each other become the persons God intended us to be.
Our shared gifts, talents, and resources make us stronger.
None of us are as strong alone as we are together. The spiritual gifts listed in passages such as Romans 12:4-7, Ephesians 4:11-12, and I Corinthians 12:4-11 paint a great picture of how we work together and strengthen each other.
I can't say it better than what is written in Ephesians chapter 4:
"So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."
God ordained the church as his organized plan for redemption.
Jesus is the sacrifice for redemption; the church is the plan for redemption.
It's a powerful thought that God ordained only two institutions: Marriage and the church. That makes them both incredibly important, and it seems wise that we know what God has in mind for each one. In this post, we'll focus on the church.
"His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence" (Ephesians 3:10-12).
Redemption has always been God's purpose, and he appointed the church to carry out that purpose.
If church is God's idea, then for believers, it's worth more than academic consideration or participation during the holidays. Your life becomes deeper and richer as you give your whole heart to the people and the mission of the church.