By Lisa Appelo, Crosswalk.com
Dear believer who isn’t in church:
It already feels legalistic, this article, doesn’t it? Like I’m about to recite a long list of things you must do as a Christian. I’m not.
My aim isn’t to tell you all the things you aren’t doing. I have way too much taking care of the log in my own eye. My aim is to show you what you are missing.
For some of you, it’s not that you don’t like the church, it’s just that – well, LIFE.
Maybe you’re a college student, raised up in the church and launched with much prayer. Student life is so erratic and the weekends are so filled that you just haven’t plugged into a church body.
Maybe you’re a young couple busy kindling careers. You love some Kari Jobe and you have personal devotions, but Sundays have become time to catch up on sleep or get together with friends.
Maybe you have a busy family with multiple kids in multiple sports -- elite leagues that require traveling every weekend and commitments for Sunday games and practices.
Perhaps you’re an empty nester and now that the kids are gone, you just don’t feel the same compelling need to be in church or serve in church and little by little, you’ve stepped away from church altogether.
Or maybe, you don’t actually like the church. Someone at church hurt you deeply. Someone offended you – maybe someone in leadership who should have known better -- and so you’ve decided you’ll keep Jesus but reject the church.
Is church really necessary for the Christian? I want to share 5 reasons why you can’t do without church as a Christian.
1) You’re missing out on how God has chosen to work in this age. God founded the church. It’s not an invention of men like the Elks club or the Red Cross. God created the church and has specifically tasked it to carry out His work until Christ returns. (Acts 1:2)
If you’re saved, you’re part of the church -- one body – His beloved bride. This body is made of believers all across the world meeting in multiple congregations. The church provides fellowship, community, corporate worship, discipleship and ministry; it performs the ordinances of communion and baptism; it sends out the called to the utter ends of the earth. The church is a gift from God in this age.
2) You’re missing out on using your spiritual gifts. Every believer has one or more spiritual gifts – gifts like teaching, giving, serving, evangelism, hospitality and encouraging. When we a give gift, we mean for the recipient to use and enjoy it. Not so with spiritual gifts. They’re not meant for the recipient. The spiritual gifts God gives us are meant for the body.
If you aren’t plugged into the church, the body isn’t getting your spiritual gift. Maybe you think it won’t be missed. Scripture says your gift will be missed. (1 Cor 14:26; Eph 4:12) Not only that, but we’ll be held responsible for how we use our spiritual gift. In Matthew 25, Jesus told the parable about a servant who buried a talent given him by his master. When the master returned, those who had multiplied their talents were praised and rewarded while the servant who had buried his talent was rebuked and chastened.
3) You’re missing out on spiritual gifts meant for you. If you’re not in a church, not only is the body missing out on your spiritual gifts, but you are missing out on the body’s spiritual gifts intended for you. Sure, you can turn on the radio or a podcast and hear great preaching. But you’ll miss out altogether on the shepherding a local pastor provides. You’ll also miss gifts of service, encouragement, hospitality, prophecy and so many more that God intends for you to build you into a strong and mature believer.
4) You’re missing out on accountability. God calls believers to be holy. Can we do that on our own? Theoretically, maybe it’s possible. Practically, however, the more we’re out from under regular Biblical teaching and the more we drift away from others also authentically trying to live a holy life, the more difficult it is to live by God’s standards. In a world veering further and further from God’s standard, regular fellowship and intentional worship with the body of Christ re-align us. It helps provide a plumb line of accountability in a world that eschews both plumb lines and accountability.
5) You’re missing out on the sweetest fellowship this side of heaven. This one I know from experience. Five years ago, I woke up to my husband’s labored breathing. Within an hour, an emergency room doctor would pronounce him dead and I became a widow and single mom to our seven children. I made one phone call to let a dear friend from church know what was happening and rode home in shock.
Within minutes of arriving home, my front door opened. That friend came to be with us. Throughout the day, my front door opened again and again as the body of Christ came to grieve with us. Over the next months, they brought meals, cleaned the house, fixed broken appliances, ministered to my children, helped with cars and continue to pray for us even now. In our desperation, they were the hands and feet of Jesus.
Why the church? We are meant to walk this Christian life together. I know churches can hurt. I know they can offend. And I’m deeply sorry for that.
But countless churches across the globe are the authentic body of Christ – imperfect and yet gloriously bearing Christ’s image.
Robert Frost wrote about two roads that diverged in the wood. I cannot imagine what my life would look like without the friendships, the equipping, the accountability, the ministry that various congregations of believers have provided in my life. The road you choose – in church or out – will make all the difference.
Lisa Appelo is a single mom to 7, young widow, author & crazy in love with Christ. She shares soul-deep encouragement and proclaims God’s faithfulness in the hard on her blog, LisaAppelo.com. Check out her free 100 Days with Christ Bible study resource. You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram.