Belonging is Very Necessary

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Jul 202014

There are many voices today decrying the Church of Jesus Christ.  They tell us that she is outdated.  Irrelevant.  Impotent.  Unneccesary.  The focus basically is-you can be a Christian.  You can love the Lord.  You can live for Him in the world today-but you don’t need, nor will you likely get any help from the Church-i.e. the organized historical Church as we have known it. You can even go on line and find a Church to meet your needs at This is not a new trend.  I came across an article written by Robert W. Patterson, associate to the Executive Director of the National Association of Evangelicals, written for Christianity Today , back in March of 1991.  He wrote:

“When President Eisenhower became a Christian, he made a public profession of his faith in Christ, he was baptised, and was extended the right hand of fellowship at the National Presbyterian Church in Washington D.C., the second Sunday after his inauguration in 1953.  Had the former President expressed interest in becoming a Christian a generation later under more consciously evangelical auspices, he might have never been challenged to identify with the Body of Christ through baptism and church membership.  A personal relationship with Jesus Christ, he would have been told, is all that really matters”.(Robert Patterson, “In Search of the Visible Church” Christianity Today, March 11, 1991, Vol. 34, No. 3, p.36).

Of course, I wholeheartedly agree that without a saving relationship with Jesus Christ that all is lost.  Joining a Church is not the same as accepting Christ as Savior.  But we must never mistakenly reason that one’s relationship with Christ minimizes the importance of the Church.  Yet that is the spirit of our age.  Someone has said that this is the age of the “McChristian”.  We chooses what level of product he wants from the Church, like one does at McDonalds, or a buffet.  Pollster George Barna says, “The average adult thinks belonging to a particular Church is fine for other people, but is an unnecessary bondage and baggage for himself” (George Barna, The Frog in the Kettle Regal Books. 1991 p.133).  So a decade into the new millenium’s 21st century we have a phenomenon unthinkable in any other generation-“Churchless Christians”.  Why has this trend developed?  Some feel that it has happened because of too much emphasis on the “invisible Church”.  While it is true that Christ is building a Church, and the totality of that Church is overall invisible to our eye, i.e. we cannot see the entire Church in its entirety at any one time, and any one place, (the first meeting will be in the air at the rapture), Christ’s invisible Church manifests itself in visible congregations, at visible locations, all over the world, as the New Testament teaches us.  Both teachings are true, but too much emphasis on one over the other leads to error.  Another likely reason this trend has happened in America is our historic American individualism.  Nancy Pearcey has written a 478 page book on how we have developed a Church in America that our culture has molded to make it quite different from the New Testament Church.  It is called Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity. (Crossway books. 2004).  She has an entire chapter titled, “When Christianity met America Guess Who Won!”.  She quotes Thomas Paine saying, “We have a chance to start history all over again”.  She proposes that we did that with Christianity too!  When Christians from other countries come to America they don’t even recognize our “version of the Church”.  R. Kent Hughes, in his book Disciplines of a Godly Man, says “another reason for the de-churching of many Christians is the historical individualism of evangelical Christianity and the grass-roots American impulse against authority.  The natural inclination is to think tht one needs only an individual relationship with Jesus Christ and needs no other authority.  Such thinking produces Lone Ranger Christians who demonstrate their authority by riding not to Church, but out to the badlands, reference Bible in hand, to do battle single-handedly with the outlaw world”.  (p.152). If we “say” we don’t need the Church that settles the matter-we are the final authority on everything.  Because “we say so!” That’s the American way!

We need to make a commitment to join and to belong to a local visible Church for many reasons.  It is a place we come to worship with other believers in a committed relationship, not to be forsaken (Heb. 10:25).  It is a place to be fed preaching and teaching (something the Bible commends a Pastor who does it well of being worthy of double-honor-(I Timothy 5:17 “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labor in the Word and doctrine”).  It is a place to be held accountable.  Hebrews 13:17 “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls, as they must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you”.  How do you do that if you do not belong where a Pastor can watch over your growth and service?  It is a place for giving and service.  You are committed to share in needs of the Church, and to work along side your co-laborers.  It is a place to pool your resources and support a mission cause bigger than what you are locally.  Southern Baptist Mission endeavers are second-to-none world wide in reaching the world for Jesus Christ.  It gives you a Church family that you can rejoice with or weep with. (Romans 15:12).  John Bunyan, (of Pilgrim’s Progress fame), expressed this need well on one occasion.  While imprisoned he had been quite depressed, falling into despondency which lasted for several days.  God intervened and let him experience His presence in a special way.  Bunyan wrote, “But that was a good night to me; I have had but few better; I longed for the company of some of God’s people, that I might have imparted unto them what God had showed me.  Christ was a precious Christ to my soul that night; I could scarce lie in my bed for joy, and peace, and triumph though Christ”.  You and I take for granted the very thing that had been taken from him-the community spirit of the Church.

The Church, though seen as defeated and irrelevant in todays world, will outlast the world!  Jesus said, “I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).  Harry Blamires emphasizes this truth when he wrote, “The world is like a great express train hurtling towards disaster-total destruction.  And in this truly desperate situation certain passengers are running up and down the corridors announcing to each other that the Church is in great danger!  The irony of it would be laughable if it were not so searing.  Why most of the Church’s members have already gotten out at stations en route.  And we ourselves shall be getting out soon anyway. (the rapture). And if the crash comes and the world is burnt to ashes, then the only thing that will survive the disaster will of course be the Church” (Harry Blamires, The Christian Mind, c. 1963 p. 153).  In this world we need the Church!  The visible local Church!

Timothy Dwight, President of Yale University, when it was a bastion for God’s truth in Puritan fashion, wrote one of the most beautiful poems about the Church.  He wrote:

I love Thy Church O God

Her walls before thee stand

Dear as the apple of Thine eye

And graven on Thy hand

For her my tears shall fall

For her my prayers ascend

To her my cares and toils be given

Til toils and cares shall end!

Jesus Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her and to her.  We can do no less!