The local church occupies an important position in God's scheme of things. It is through the local church that Christians execute certain works. These are works which God commands that can only be accomplished as a group in the context of a local church. To illustrate this, consider the partaking of the Lord's Supper. It is to be done on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7) when the local church is assembled together (1 Cor. 11:20,33). Another example would be the discipline of an unfaithful Christian. This discipline is to be administered by the local church in its assembly (1 Cor. 5:4,5). The Christian is to provoke other Christians and to be provoked by other Christians. This provoking is done in the assembly (Heb. 10:24,25). Who can deny the importance of a local church? Does not the aforementioned items prove as much?
Paul understood how important the local church was to his Christian life, hence, "...when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples." (Acts 9:26a). Obviously, Paul saw the necessity and benefit of being a member within the structure of a local church.
A failure to appreciate the benefits of membership in a local church will cause the Christian to live below his potential. Sadder still, it will cause him to lose his soul.
It is impossible for the Christian to fulfill collective responsibility unless he is a faithful member of a local church. The idea that a Christian can be a member at large, never settling down at one congregation, where he would be accountable, is not acceptable conduct for a Christian. This is tantamount to 'forsaking of the assembly' and is a failure to support the work of a local church, which equals sin. Yes, disassociating one's self from active participation in a local church is harmful to your spiritual health.
We often hear Christians lament the lack of growth in local churches. Could it be that lack of growth is symptomatic of the mentality that minimizes the importance of the local church? I believe it does! How can we work together to build up the local church if we believe the local church is not important? We cannot!
I am not saying that we should be a member of a local church that does not respect the authority of God. There have been and are local churches which teach and practice things that are contrary to sound doctrine. To them the Lord says, "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the work you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent" (Rev. 2:5). On the other hand, there are local churches which have set themselves to abiding in the doctrine of Christ (2 Jno. 9), it is to such a congregation one should join himself.
Dear Christian, if you have been guilty of devaluing the local church, I encourage you to repent. If you have failed in your responsibilities toward the local church of which you are a member, I encourage you to repent. Repent and get busy working within the framework of the local church.
By Glen Young, via Gospel Power, Vol. 15, No. 25, June 22, 2008.
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