We live in one of those days and ages and cultures where individualism - a good value in its rightful place - has often become ultimate. And this individuality-as-greatest-concern has seeped into the church, leading to a growing number of believers in Jesus Christ who "love Jesus, but not the church."
In the face of this cultural mindset, how do we uphold the value of the local church - a gathered body of believers characterized by certain things? The more we can stack hands on these two following "foundational beliefs," the more people will WANT to commit to and invest themselves in the local church:
The local church is important because of who she is.
The New Testament uses lots of images to describe the church: the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-31), a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), the temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:16-18), and more. Many of these descriptions hint at issues of functionality. But at least one underscores the VALUE of the church in a vivid way: The church as the bride of Christ (e.g. 1 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-27).
In Ephesians 5:25, we see the value Christ places on His bride in the most dramatic way possible: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her... (emphasis added)." Christ loved the church enough to give Himself up for her. The church is that valuable because of how God sees her and what Christ has done for her!
The local church is important because of what she does.
In Ephesians 3, the Apostle Paul writes about a mystery that was not known to previous generations but has now been revealed by God's Spirit to the apostles and prophets (v. 5). And what is this mystery? That God's promises are available not only to ethnic Jews but also to Gentiles (v. 6). In other words, "anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (cf Romans 10:13) and can be partakers in the promises and inheritance God has promised to His people.
And then listen to this: Speaking of this mystery of God that has now been revealed in Christ, Paul continues, "[God's] intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms..." (Ephesians 3:10). God is revealing this grand saving plan of His through the church! Through our gospel-centered teaching & preaching, through the observance of the ordinances (baptism and the Lord's Supper), through our community, through our evangelism, and through our service we are bearing witness to God's saving activity. This truth infuses value (and purpose!) to these vital tasks of the local church.
In conclusion, let me simply circle back around to what I'm hoping this post accomplishes: The more we can stack hands on these two "foundational beliefs," the more we will WANT to commit to and invest ourselves in the local church.
What has been your posture towards the value of the local church? Why? How might one (or both) of the truths in this post be key in re-kindling a love for the local church?
Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor. Learner. Contributor. Reader.