My wife and I were watching a television program about Alaska recently. Although it wasn’t at all related to the doctrine of the church, it was interesting to see how one woman lives alone for 9 months out of the year in a little village. She lives in a very remote location and her nearest road is 80 miles away. Literally, the only way out of her village is by a small airplane. During three months of the year, she receives several visitors who land in a plane to drop off supplies. At other times, hunters are landed by plane who make their way out into the bush for hunting expeditions. At the end of a visit, as her friends were leaving, she was seen looking at the plane as it took off with tears rolling down her face. She made the statement that she gets used to the loneliness, but it does hurt to be so far away and separated from the rest of the world.
When it comes to the church, God intended the redeemed children of God to be plugged into the life of the church. To speak in a more pointed manner – church isn’t an option for God’s children. The church isn’t the building – it’s the people. The word for church in the New Testament is the word, ἐκκλησία which most literally means, “A called out assembly.” People need the church. Below you will see several reasons why the Christian as an individual needs the church.
#1 – People Need the Church For God’s Word
Dr. Albert Mohler – the President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary preached the Spring Convocation Chapel Service on January 31st 2006. He said, “Preaching is the first mark of the authentic church, the essential mark, the mark without which the other marks do not matter,” he said. “… Where this mark is not found, there is no church.”Christians need the Word of God preached to them in order that they may grow spiritually. Just as children need milk to grow and adults need meat to sustain their bodies and remain healthy – Christians need the Word of God on a constant basis. The book of Acts records the actions of the new Christians in Acts 2:37-47. The early church was a gathering assembly of saints who placed great emphasis upon the preaching of Scripture.
J.I. Packer said, “(The Puritans believed in) the supreme importance of preaching. To the Puritans, the sermon was the liturgical climax of public worship. Nothing, they said, honours God more than the faithful declaration and obedient hearing of His truth. Preaching, under any circumstances, is an act of worship, and must be performed as such. Moreover, preaching is the prime means of grace to the church.”
See also [Psalm 19; Acts 6:7; 11:26; Colossians 1:28; Ephesians 4:11-14]
#2 – People Need the Church For Biblical Leadership and Correction
As Christians, God never intended His children to be islands unto themselves. He designed them to be part of a people, a community, a gathering, a church! One of the main reasons for the need of a gathering assembly of believers is for biblical correction that comes through preaching sound doctrine and church discipline. We need to hear preaching for the Holy Spirit to prick our hearts and guide us in the way of righteousness. We also need to be confronted with issues and sins in our lives through faithful brothers and sisters in the Lord who love us enough to speak up when they see us compromising the faith.
In 2 Timothy 4:2, Paul said the following to Timothy: “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” The point that Paul was making to Timothy, a young pastor, was to correct and rebuke people through faithful preaching of Scripture! The writer to the Hebrew Christians says the following in Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” The point is clear, God intended the Christian to be under a set of biblical leaders in order to guide them through faithful teaching of Scripture.Church discipline is described in Scripture by Jesus Himself (Matthew 18). Discipline is necessary for the health of the individual Christian, the purity of the body of Christ, and the glory of God. It should be noted that discipline is never to be carried out through strife, anger, or a desire to excommunicate someone from the family of God.
Discipline should always be carried out in love with a desire for restoration – not excommunication. However, if at the final stage the disciplined member is unwilling to repent, that individual is to be removed from the fellowship of the body in a final serious measure to bring the person to repentance and restoration with God. Even then, the person is to be treated like an unbeliever. When the church treats someone like an unbeliever, they treat them with love and evangelize them with the gospel. At all stages, discipline is to be a process of love.
See Also [Matthew 18:15-20; Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-10; 1 Timothy 1:20; 1 Timothy 5:19-21]
#3 – People Need the Church For Love and Care
All people need to experience love and support at some level. Since the Christian life is often difficult and faces many obstacles along the journey, God designed the church to be an assembly of believers that would love one another and support one another spiritually and physically. The early church believed this was essential since they sold possessions and made sure the needy members were being taken care of (Acts 2:37-47).
This is still important in our present day. We should be able to rely upon one another in times of distress and need. If a family is unable to make the ends meet and a need arises for food, transportation, medical bills, or other major life issues – the church should be willing to assist. In a day where the government is viewed as the means of such assistance, the church should be willing to care for the widows, fatherless, homeless, and those who have other specific needs within the life of the congregation.
See Also [1 Timothy 5:3-15; James 1:27]
#4 – People Need the Church For Corporate Worship
David Platt said, “Worship involves a rhythm of revelation & response. The Word of God & the worship of God cannot be separated from one another.”
Worship is about God – not our own flesh. However, God intends for His children to gather with other believers for worship. Although we can worship God while we are all alone in an open field, we are to have corporate worship together which often involves baptisms and the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). The writer to the Hebrew Christians wrote (Hebrews 10:25), “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.” The point is clear, God’s will is for the body of Christ to assemble together, and to neglect it or reject it is to sin against God. Christians shouldn’t be habitual church skippers.
See Also [Acts 5:11-12; 15:22;]
#5 – People Need the Church For Service
All Christians have been given spiritual gifts by our Lord in order to serve Him. If we don’t assemble, how will the body function? How will people use their spiritual gifts? How will the pastors preach, the deacons serve, or any other member use their spiritual gifts? Paul made this point abundantly clear in 1 Corinthians 12 when he described the importance of the members of the body. We might have many different members, but we are one body. Every member is important!
Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said, “The church is so constituted that every member matters, and matters in a very vital sense.”
#6 – People Need the Church to Avoid Isolationism
All throughout the history of the church, people have existed that were more comfortable in their own bubble. Within our own comfort zones, we can control who enters our space, the particulars of the space, and how we interact with different personalities. However, in the life of the church, we face different personalities, hard personalities, emotional roller coasters, young, old, detailed, sloppy, happy, sad, funny, dry, loving, selfish, and many other types of people. At times, it can be a challenge to interact with the different ranges of people that exist within the church. However, God intended the church to be diverse and for His children to be engaged in the assembly rather than isolated islands.The Scripture provides different metaphors of the church:
- Body (many members)
These different metaphors of the church are intended to show a group rather than an individual. Rather than being alone – God intends for us to be together for support, love, sanctification, and ultimately for His glory.
See Also [1 Timothy 5:1-2; Ephesians 1; Romans 8; Galatians 4; 1 Corinthians 12; 1 Peter 5:2; Hebrews 10:25; 1 Corinthians 3:9]
#7 – People Need the Church for Spiritual Maturity
- Parents should train their children (Proverbs 22:6)
- Pastors should train other pastors and teachers (1 Peter 5:1-5)
- Older women should train the younger (Titus 2:3)
- Faithful men should teach others (2 Timothy 2:2)
Charles Spurgeon said, “Some Christians try to go to heaven alone, in solitude. But believers are not compared to bears or lions or other animals that wander alone. Those who belong to Christ are sheep in this respect, that they love to get together. Sheep go in flocks, and so do God’s people” (Sermons, 30.597).
#8 – People Need the Church to Reach the Lost
From the neighborhoods to the nations, the church has a calling to reach the world with the gospel. God has gifted the church with the office of an evangelist (Ephesians 4:11). He has commissioned the church to go to the neighborhoods and the nations (Acts 1:8; Matthew 28:18-20). Therefore, with this difficult task in mind, we need the church in order to accomplish this mission. This is not something we can do alone. We need money, prayer, support, and community in order to achieve this calling. Therefore, we as Christians should assemble, plan, and go out with the gospel to reach the unreached with the greatest message that human ears have ever heard – the message of the cross!
John Piper said, “If we love God’s fame and are committed to magnifying His name above all things, we cannot be indifferent to world missions.”
#9 – People Need the Church by God’s Design
God designed the church – long before we were born. Before time, God chose a people unto Himself from all of the wicked fallen sinners of humanity (Ephesians 1). He designed the death of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to pay for the sin of those people. Therefore, since Jesus died for the church (Ephesians 5:25), we as His redeemed people – the church – should engage, involve ourselves within, and learn to love the church body.
Unlike any other organization of humanity, there isn’t a greater group of people to be part of than the church of the living God. Jesus founded it (Matthew 16:18), He died for the church (Ephesians 5:25), and He is one day going to return for His bride. If you are not currently involved in the life of a local church congregation, I would encourage you to look at this subject seriously. Either you have never been saved and do not understand the need for the church, or you have pulled back from the church for some other reason. Christians need the church – and I would encourage you to place a high priority upon you and your family being plugged into the life of your local congregation. The church is worth your time, your talent, and the investment of your treasure for the glory of God.
Donald Whitney said, “As wonderful and sophisticated as the heart is, it was never made to be just a heart, but a part of a body. It has no value to the body outside the body. And the heart itself can’t thrive outside the body. As incredible and wonderful as you are, Christian, you were never made just to be an individual Christian, but a part of body. As every organ and every cell is God-created to be an active member of the human body, so every true Christian is God-created to be an active member of a local body of Christ. ”
For His Glory!
Pastor Josh Buice