What’s so Important
About the Local Church?
At a time when there’s more Bible teaching than you could ever consume available through radio, television, & the Internet, why should it matter where & how you’re taking in God’s truth? What’s wrong with virtual, web-based congregations for the digital-age church? Why can’t your iPod be your worship leader, your tablet be your preacher, & your friends your fellowship & accountability? The Answer is Simple: That’s Not the Way God Designed it!
The N.T. repeatedly emphasizes the importance of the local assembly. In fact, it was the pattern that Paul’s used to establish local congregations in the cities where he preached the gospel. Hebrews 10:24-25 commands every believer to be a part of such a local body [church] & reveals why this is necessary. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25. It is only in the local church to which one is committed that there can be the level of intimacy that is required for carefully stimulating fellow believers “to love & good works” & it is only in this setting that we can encourage one another faithfully & Biblically.
The New Testament also teaches that every believer is to be under the protection & nurture of the eldership of the local church. These men can shepherd the believer by encouraging, admonishing, & teaching. Hebrews 13:7 & 17 help us to understand that God has graciously granted accountability to us through godly leadership.
Furthermore, when Paul gave Timothy instructions about public meetings, he said, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” (1 Timothy 4:13). A part of the emphasis in public worship includes: hearing the Word, being called to obedience and action through exhortation, and teaching. It is only in the context of the local assembly that these things can effectively take place.
Acts 2:42 shows us what the early church did when they met together: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” They learned God’s Word and the implications of it in their lives, they joined together to carry out acts of love and service to one another, they commemorated the Lord’s death and resurrection through the Lord’s Supper [breaking of bread], & they prayed. We cannot do these things individually, but God has called us into His Body [the church] which is the local representation of that worldwide Body—& we should gladly minister & be ministered to among God’s people.
Active involvement in the local church is imperative to living a life without compromise. It is only through the ministry of the local church that a believer can receive the kind of teaching, accountability, & encouragement that is necessary for him to stand firm in his convictions. God has ordained that the church provide the kind of environment where an uncompromising life can thrive & His people can grow spiritually.
As a preacher, probably the most discouraging thing is poor attendance by some members of the church. Often, I have spent hours studying & preparing a sermon for my Lay Lake family. As Sunday approaches, I am excited about the opportunity to apply this truth in the lives of the congregation. Often, I can think of several in the church who are struggling in their Christian lives, and I cannot wait to preach the Word of God and provide answers; principles that will help them from the Word.
Sad to say, the Devil also knows what is happening in the lives of the church. He has greater access to them & influence with them, than the preacher or the elders. On many occasions (Sunday & Wednesday, devotionals, Gospel Meetings, etc.), when I have prepared a message for them from the word of God & they never got to hear it, because they let a hobby, beautiful day or even a rainy one keep them from the house of the Lord. I can tell you, it deeply hurts when this happens, & it happens far too often.
How many parents are teaching their children to also be unfaithful to the Lord. Often I grieve for the wasted lives of children, whose parents regularly kept them from Bible class & worship to spend the day pursuing some hobby, sports or recreational activity the parents wanted to enjoy. I often wonder how much grief rebellious children have caused their parents, that could have been avoided if they had just kept them faithful in worship & Bible class? At times, the unfortunate outcome is that the children of these professing Christian parents have little or no interest in spiritual things and they end up unsaved or unfaithful. In my years of preaching, I have never personally known of children of unfaithful Christian parents growing up & being faithful themselves. So often I think of the children I have been privileged to teach who showed great promise of being a faithful Christian, but as they grew older, they began to see the unfaithfulness in their parent’s lives. They began to follow their disobedient parents, & soon they too, fell by the wayside.