I know the instinct of all self-identified Christians reading this who don't go to a local church:
"But I don't have to go to church to be a Christian"
If you don't mind me responding, I have two thoughts to that instinctive answer:
- If you believe: 1) there is a God who created you, 2) that you sinned against God but 3) in the midst of your sin He offers you a way to be reconciled to him through the completed work of Jesus Christ (and that because of your repentance of sin and belief in Christ's completed work God sees you in Christ and Christ's works are attributed to you), 4) that Jesus physically rose from the dead conquering death and that his resurrection is proof that you too will be given a new resurrected body when you die or he comes back again... then I suggest you find a local church and commit to being a part of that community for God's glory, the church's encouragement and your good. You may not have to go to church to be a Christian, but if you want to stay a Christian you better get plugged in to a local church. The whole point of being a Christian is persevering to the end. It may be anecdotal, but I have friends who were certain in their faith and engaged in a church, but then they stopped going and thought they could continue being Christian... In all the cases I have seen so far, it seems me like they have abandoning their faith altogether. I could be wrong, but that's what it looks like from my point of view. If you want to stop being a Christian, going to church doesn't make much sense. But if you want to be a Christian, then find a church (Spoiler Alert: you won't find a perfect one... but don't let it's imperfection stop you from committing to it)
- I hear a lot of my peers talk about being "missional", or "on mission", or a "disciple-making disciple", but they aren't involved in a local church. I agree 100% that Christians are to be "missional", but you can't be missional without a church. I've been thinking about Paul's words in Romans 10:14-15... Can we consider ourselves sent if we don't have anyone intentionally sending us? "Sending Christians" is one of the primary purposes of the local church, and it's what happens after every gathering of Christians big and small (it often goes unmentioned though). If you want to be missional, you need a local church to regularly send you out... or else I don't think you'll stay missional for long.
Some are reading this and thinking:
"I hang out with other Christian friends and consider that my church?"
I by no means want to stop you from gathering with your Christians friends, fellowship is good. But when you get together, do you intentionally worship God, read the scriptures together, pray, and call each other out on the ways that you aren't taking your faith seriously? Is there some sort of order to your time together so that everyone is aware of what's happening so that everyone can contribute and participate in some way (big or small). Are you inviting your non-Christian friends to your little gathering and proclaiming the gospel to them and baptizing them when they believe, so they can make a public declaration that they believe the gospel and love Jesus? Are you taking communion together? Are you holding people accountable for their actions? If you're doing all that, that's sweet - you've got a sweet church going on (expect more to join!). If not, maybe your gathering together isn't church, maybe you're just hanging out.
So go to a local church this Sunday... You can come to mine if you want but you don't have to, there lots of great churches out there that would love to have you.