I love the Church.
Sure, I’ll be the first to admit that no church is perfect and without its flaws. Still, I love the Church. Some of the sweetest memories of my life are from the churches I have been a part of, and the people and experiences in those different churches.
Of course, I know not everyone feels the same way.
Sadly, I have met many individuals over the years who aren’t crazy about the Church. Men and women whose experience has been a painful one, or who, frankly, don’t see the point or purpose of connecting to a local body of Christ-followers. I’ve heard things like:
“I love Jesus, but I’m not a big fan of church.”
“God and I are great! I don’t need a church to help me grow closer to Him.”
“The mountains are my church.”
“If church works for you, great. I do better following God by myself.”
“My relationship with God is a private thing. It has nothing to do with church.”
“Churches are so messed up. They only discourage my spiritual growth. I grow far more on my own.”
These are all statements I have heard from self-professing Christians over the last two decades. Perhaps, you have heard some of them too. Heck, maybe you have echoed one or two of these yourself at some point.
The truth is, there are few things as counter-cultural as being passionate about and actively committed to a local church. We live in a time where faith has become so individualized that more and more people believe you can follow Jesus just fine without ever being part of a local church family. Is this right? Is this biblical? Can I love Jesus and not the Church?
Scripture is clear on this one. Being part of the Church is not optional for a true Christian. As pastor and scholar Steve Brown writes,
The Bible teaches that when you became a Christian, you became a member of the Church—the Body of Christ—like it or not. To say that your religion is your business and no one else’s is like saying, “My marriage is a private affair…it has nothing to do with my wife.” Or “How I conduct my business has nothing to do with my employees, my product, or my customers.” The Christian faith is not a private matter. It involves your brothers and sisters in Christ.
There is a lot of misunderstanding about the word “church” because people have used it outside the biblical context. Sometimes people talk of the Church as if it were a building, a good thing for the community, or a group of quasi-religious people who have come together to talk about God. But the biblical word for church means none of these things. The Greek word used in the Bible is ecclesia and it means “called-out ones.” The Bible calls the Church “the Body of Christ,” “the Bride of Christ,” and “the Family of God.”
As Christians, Jesus saved us to be part of the Church, the Body of Christ, the family of God! While we all become part of the capital “C”, universal Church, upon our conversion, we are at the same time called by God to be committed to a lower case “c”, local church congregation. We are called to go “all in” and give ourselves to a church family. In fact, a fully-devoted follower of Christ will desire to be a fully-devoted member of a local church. Why? Because we were made for it. We were made to be part of a community of joyful, passionate Christ-followers!
You see, the Lord has ordained the local church to be the primary environment where followers of Jesus grow and mature in Him as they are shepherded by biblical pastors and leaders, taught the Word of God faithfully, and experience Christ-centered fellowship with other believers. Where they pray for one another, worship passionately together, and use the various spiritual gifts God has given them for the edification and blessing of others. Where they link arms together in mission to reach their community with the good news of the Gospel. Even in the face of challenges, for the Christian, being committed to a local church should never be a burden or chore, but a privilege and joy! Not a duty, but a delight!
The question then is not if you as a Christ-follower should be committed to a local church, but rather, what local church will you be committed to?
 Steve Brown, “Why the Church Matters,” Key Life Blog, accessed June 17, 2017, https://www.keylife.org/articles/why-the-church-matters.