I tire of the incessant church-bashing and endless tales of people disillusioned with their churches. Yes, Christians can be jerks, and we’ve all had rough times in churches, largely because they consist of people too much like us: sinner-jerks in need of grace and truth and growth.
The problem is, Jesus calls the church his bride. He died for her, and says that ultimately the gates of hell won’t prevail against her. So if you give up on the church, you give up on God’s plan. If you walk away from church, you walk away from Christ’s redemptive work. If you say you love Jesus but you’ll no longer be around the church (as Ann Rice did recently, joining countless others), you’re saying to Jesus, “I love you, but I can’t stand your bride. I’ll hang out with you, but I refuse to be with her.” If you said that to me, I’d say “If you don’t want to be with my wife, you and I won’t be hanging out together—she’s too important to me for you to shun her like that.” That’s how much I love Nanci, but I’ve never come down from Heaven in order to die for her, like Jesus did for His bride.
Last month I spoke at a Cannon Beach Christian Conference Center retreat and during one of the sessions was asked the question, "Why should the local church be important to us?"
A few weeks ago, the Desiring God website featured the local church. I'll end with one of their posts I appreciated:
The Local Church: People to Rejoice With
But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. . . if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1 Corinthians 12:25-26)
God designed it so that, as Christians, our joy is increased in the joy of others in our church. We ought to be united to our Christian brothers and sisters in such a way that their happiness is personally experienced in us.
The more we are knit together with and invested in the lives of church members, the more we have reason to celebrate when a member gives birth, gets married, gives testimony of deliverance from a sin issue, graduates, gets a job offer, or is reconciled to an estranged family member or friend. Their joy is our joy, because we are one body.
Moreover, the joy the Christian community experiences is the very joy of God (John 15:11, 17:13), delighting in the unity and the good of his people (Psalm 133).
This kind of communal and spiritual joy can only be experienced by the church. Let us follow the example of Paul who gave himself for the joy of the church (2 Corinthians 1:24, 2:3), and whose joy was increased by the church (2 Corinthians 7:13, Philippians 2:2, 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20; 3:9; 2 Timothy 1:4; Philemon 7).
Invest your life in your local church to increase the joy of others, and give yourself more opportunities to rejoice!