Some people say they love Jesus, but they don’t love the church. I can understand why. Churches can be complicated places. They are filled with imperfect people. They don’t always stick to teaching the Bible. And our own gravitational pull can make it seem like the church doesn’t meet our needs. I get it.
But before writing off the church entirely, put the following into consideration regarding the place of church in your life.
1. Jesus calls you to love other Christians
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
Jesus is exhorting his followers to love each other. This is “Christian on Christian” love. In order to love other Christians, you have to be around them. Not having a consistent presence within a gathering of Christians (i.e. a church), makes it difficult for you to obey Jesus on this one.
So what does your weekly practice of loving other Christians look like? Are you present enough within the church to create opportunities each week to love and serve other Christians?
2. Jesus and the church are a “package deal”
Scott Sauls has a humorous way of saying it that’s worth quoting at length:
“Imagine a man meets the woman of his dream. He soon discovers, to his delight that he is also the man of her dreams. They spend time together, they fall in love, and he proposes marriage. She happily accepts. A month later, she invites him to attend her annual family reunion because she wants to introduce him to all her brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins. At the family reunion, he discovers the unimaginable. Her father…wears boots that squeak. Her younger brother sings off-key. And her first cousin has a double chin. Furthermore, he discovers that several of her other relatives have high-pitched voices, voted for the wrong candidate, appreciate bad music, speak with unsophisticated accents, have bad breath, cheat on their tax returns, belch at the dinner table, are rude to the waiter, and aren’t very interested in him as a person…the thought of a future with her family members is simply unbearable to him.
‘You know that I adore you,’ he says to her. ‘But if we are going to move forward with this wedding, you need to know that I don’t ever want to see your mother, your father, your sisters, your brothers, your cousins, or any of your family members again. Can you marry me under these conditions?’”
The obvious answer is ‘no.’ The call to follow Jesus as a Christian is simultaneously the call to actively live within the community of a church.
3. The New Testament assumes being a Christian and belonging to church go together
Not once do the New Testament writers address an individual Christian as though that Christian is not part of a local church. For someone to be a Christian and not actively present within a church is an unfamiliar concept to the New Testament writers. Take that logic one step farther. To love Jesus, but not be committed to others who love Jesus, is rejecting something Jesus says you need.
4. You need the church if you’re going to make it to the finish line
The overarching concern the writer of Hebrews addresses is perseverance. He’s sees a threat to the group of Christians he’s writing to: they may not make it to the finish line. One of the exhortations he gives to this group of Christians is to continue spending time together.
"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:24-25).
To put this differently, one of the reasons the faith of these Christians is in jeopardy is that they have ceased meeting together. Maybe there is some divinely ordained need that is met by being actively present within a church.
One quick encouragement: go find a church that faithfully teaches the Bible and seeks to elevate Jesus Christ above all else and commit to it! It won’t always be neat and tidy. Churches are messy places because we human beings are messy people. But, by God’s grace, we’ll push through and it will be worth it all in the end.