Many people are ready to kill the church. I commonly hear people say, “I love Jesus, but I hate the church.” Church makes for an easy target. My generation in particular is scrambling to find a new and better Christianity that is different from that of our parents. We love the idea of walking together in a community that loves Jesus. We love the capital-C Church of Christians everywhere. But we do not want to commit to one local church.
There are some good reasons behind our lack of commitment to the local church. We are not interested in denominational division or tribalism. We are not interested in churches that define success solely on numbers. We are not interested in a church with dated practices and procedures. Most of all, we are tired of churches trying to build up themselves. We want to see the Kingdom built!
We see brokenness in the church. Our response: kill the church and start over.
However, I fear we have made a tragic error. In an effort to be Kingdom-minded, we have neglected commitment to a local church. In thinking we are living out the church of Acts, we have become less biblical. Yes, the Kingdom of God is people not buildings. God has called us to commit to the broken people where we live- in local churches by regularly meeting together, by placing ourselves under the teaching and authority of church elders, and by helping one another grow in our faith.
Consider three reasons local church commitment is not a hindrance, but necessary for the Kingdom.
The Gospel is Defined and Displayed in the Local Church.
The local church exists to define and display the Gospel to the world. In each new generation, the church exists to express and embody the Gospel. The Gospel does not change, but the culture does. God has appointed His people to define the Gospel for the world by proclaiming it in a way people understand.
Our witness is given its saltiness by the way we live out the Gospel in life together. This enables others to see the Gospel visibly through the local church.
The New Testament Assumes Local Church Commitment.
By committing ourselves to a local church, we are following the New Testament pattern. Rick Thompson, my pastor, often comments on how the Bible never commands, “Thou shalt go to church.” What it does is something even more profound! The New Testament assumes local church commitment.
Most of the New Testament letters are written to local churches. We see a pattern in the New Testament of the apostles establishing local congregations, appointing elders, and themselves belonging to a local body of believers.
There is not a single example in the New Testament of a Christian who has not been baptized and committed to a local church. If we are going to live like the church of the book of Acts, we must make local church commitment a priority.
The Kingdom Cannot Grow Strong with Weak Local Churches.
Commitment to a local church is not the enemy of a Kingdom mentality. Commitment to a local church is the foundation of a Kingdom mentality. The Kingdom is not made strong by Christians withholding commitment to a local church any more than a brick wall is made stronger by removing the cement that separates the bricks.
Imagine if the military, in an effort to have greater commitment to the general himself, dissolved all units and the chain of command. Would our military be stronger? Not at all! The military is strong because each soldier has intense commitment to his or her particular unit and commander. Each unit works arm-in-arm for the good of our country.
In the same way, the Kingdom of God is at its best when individual Christians are unapologetically committed to their own local church. Then, each local church can work arm-in-arm with other local churches to serve our city for the fame of our great God. As our local churches live and die, so does God’s Kingdom witness in our city.