The Churchless Christian (Part 1)

Photo credit:  Vinoth Chandar

Photo credit: Vinoth Chandar

Part 1: Does walking with Christ mean walking with a local church?

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 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.”

Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV

One of the most common verses we hear when discussing the importance of the local church is part of or a variation of Hebrews 10:25’s exhortation to avoid “neglecting to meet together”. I have used this verse often when encouraging Christians young and old to actively partner with a local church. With such a clear command as we see in Hebrews, it would seem impossible for any Christian to deny the importance of belonging to a local church. Since the time of Jesus, all of Christendom has sought true love, friendship and community within the local church. The idea of a family sitting around, watching a preacher on TV and calling it “church” is a new concept. Christianity without connection to a local body of believers would have been a foreign idea throughout most of Christian history.

Some very common objections have arisen from professing Christians who think they no longer need the local church. I would like to briefly address two of these objections:

1. You don’t have to be a part of the local church to be a Christian.

This may be the biggest fallacy facing professing Christians. Simply put, you cannot be a thriving Christian without being a part of the local church. A Christian is one who has submitted to the authority of Christ, and the Scriptures command Christians to be a part of the local church. We cannot submit to God with our whole heart and disregard this truth. I can confidently say, based on Hebrews 10 and other verses, that a Christian’s desire will be for the local church, subsequently leading that person to connect to a local body of believers.

2. Meeting with other Christians, listening to sermons, reading my Bible and praying are the same as belonging to a church.

I know this makes many people feel good about what they are doing, but there are several problems with this way of thinking. Who are the leaders of the “church” with whom you are meeting? Are they called to be elders? Do they meet the qualifications of elders (1 Timothy 3:1-7)? We are called to live in submission to those who are called to be elders of the church (Hebrews 13:17).

It is neat to meet with friends, but meeting with other Christians doesn’t make you a local church. The local church includes the public reading of Scripture, exhortations, and teaching (1 Timothy 4:13), among other things. When we view the church in a biblical context we see that a church is a body of Christians, under submission to leaders who have been appointed by God, studying the Scriptures and living in community together to exhort each other, uplift each other and be on Gospel mission. You may be able to have one or a few of these, but you cannot have all of these without the local church.

I have often asked myself what happened to Christians to make them feel as if they didn’t need the local church.  In part two, I will share some of my thoughts on the subject.