Friday, August 20, 2010

Important Issues 1--The Presence of a Local Church in the Life of a Christian

Are churches full of sinners? Of course. As my pastor often reminds us, the church is full of sinners who realize they need a Savior.

Are churches full of hypocrites, who talk of loving their neighbors but then ignore suffering around them, judging too quickly while ignoring their own sin? Sadly, yes. Can these churchgoers hurt those around them? Again, yes. Is that heartbreaking? Yes.

Is this an reason for us to abandon church? No. It may be an excuse, but it is not a reason.

The church is full of sinners and often viewed by outsiders as corrupt televangelists. Many have been hurt by individuals in churches or worse, hurt by local churches themselves that have misused authority.

However, the misuse of authority by a congregation does not mean that all congregations lose their authority. That one congregation caused more harm than good does not negate the purpose purpose for congregations to exist.

It is like the relationship between the parent and a child. Some parents abuse their children, misusing their God-given roles and authority, and the outcome can be devastating. Parents like this have not earned the right to be parents. However, this does not discredit parenthood and the authority that many parents use to wisely shepherd their children by keeping them safe and instructing them.

The fact that bad churches, like bad parents, exist does not discredit the need for wise and loving churches and parents in the lives of a believer and child.

Why do I need the authority of a church over me?

The Bible Says So.

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some in the NKJV. Part of the reason we gather in churches is to spur one another toward love and good deeds. Can you do this with people outside of the church? Yes, but this is one of the reasons churches exist.

Also, check out Matthew 16:16-19. Christ is the one building His church on the foundation that He is Lord. That whole thing about "what is bound and loosed in earth and heaven" is about churches having authority. See also 1 Corinthians 5 for why this is important. Also here for more reasons.

The procedure that Jesus describes in Matthew 18:15-20 cannot take place if Christians are not in a local church with other Christians who know them well. Our sanctification is largely through the local church where we have other believers to hold us accountable, especially when we do not think we are sinning. If I were involved in a serious unrepentant sin, for the good of my soul, i am glad I go to a church where my friends and eventually the whole church, would try to correct me. More reasons here.

John MacArthur's website says "No Christian is a law unto himself, just autonomous running around." We are meant to be under authority. Heb 13:17

Now the authority of the church is not a pastor telling the congregation a position on some theologically issue/real life application and saying that we have to believe him because he says so. If I grew convicted that my church was wrong on something, if it was not a core issue, I would be welcome to disagree. For example, I am welcome to have any view of eschatology that fit within scripture and still be at my church. We are welcome to disagree about whether deacons need to be married.

I seek the authority of my church leaders because I want to be under wise, well-studied individuals who will remind me of the gospel and will teach me about the Bible. And yes, I can read the Bible and good books about the Bible and reason for myself, but my pastors spend hours laboring on their sermons each week. I reap the benefits of their labors.

If I initially disagree, or at least question, a conclusion they come to, I will not just close myself off to their ideas. I will meditate on and study the word, and observe people at my church who live according to those ideas. A couple at at my church did not particularly want children, but then after a few years of sitting under teaching that valued parenthood and children, and spending time with church members who lived out those teachings, they grew to desire children, and they consider their daughters a blessing from God.

It's true that you can learn things from spending time about all sorts of people. You do not need to be in a church to learn how to do nice things and to be encouraged to do nice things for people around you. You can even learn to recognize attributes of God in non-Christians around you. A lady that goes to my church met a woman with six children and noticed how the gentle way she protected her child from harm was like the way God protects his children.

However, as a Christian your life is changed by Christ's work on the cross. You learn to live according to that change by living your life with and around other believers. You cannot learn what it looks like to be changed by the gospel by hanging out with good people, only by spending time with those who have been changed by the gospel.

Other reasons that I don't want to delve into now because this post is already very long:
  • Hearing God's word preached is a means of grace--a good church will give you ample and regular opportunities to hear God's word preached.
  • A community of believers is a sweet place of fellowship, stability, accountability, friendship, iron sharping iron, and so much more.
  • The church provides a context for diverse people to grow in unity in their faith in Christ.

The church and church membership is a gift from God. No amount of distortion and abuse of this gift stops it from being a good gift. If a Christian would neglect or avoid a gift from God, I think they need to reevaluate their spiritual life... preferable in a context of other maybe a local church.

More resources:, Why We Love the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church or What is a Healthy Church by Mark Dever, Stop Dating the Church by Joshua Harris

1 comment:

  1. Laura, love your point about bad churches and parents not negating the need for good churches and parents!