Do you place a priority upon the gathering, worship, and fellowship of the local church? If not, it could be an indicator that something is not right spiritually. A lack of commitment to your local church could be indicative of pride, laziness, slothfulness, and a refusal to submit to proper biblical discipleship and accountability. Since Jesus laid down his life for the church, we know what God thinks about the church. Therefore, we should put priority upon the regular gathering and relational community of the local church.
Identifying the Problems
During the rise of the COVID-19 controversy, the regular gathering was compromised due to overreach from the government and fear of church members. To put it bluntly, many Christians have caved to the fear of disease, sickness, and death which has caused them to sacrifice their commitment to the local church in pursuit of safety. In essence, their pursuit of safety has actually led them into great danger spiritually. An obsession with wellness will result in spiritual decline if a person is led to believe that physical wellness necessitates the willful neglect of the local church. This is a serious problem that must be addressed.
In some cases, it’s not the fear of sickness that prevents the proper commitment to the local church, it’s actually pride. Some professing Christians believe they are strong enough, spiritual enough, or live as a special case where the local church is not necessary. They go about life by prioritizing business, family, vacations, recreation, politics, and other life commitments with little focus upon the local church. This is a tragic mistake that will have lasting consequences.
In both cases of fear and pride, the professing Christian develops an elevated opinion of his or her spiritual condition that results in the neglect of the local church and the ordinary means of grace. This will result in a spiritual decline that will not end well.
Rather than honoring God, the person gripped by fear of sickness neglects the clear commands to gather with the local church thereby elevating their commitment to pursuing good physical health above the pursuit of spiritual health. The person deceived by pride lacks self-awareness on a spiritual level resulting in a greater commitment to other areas of life while neglecting the corporate assembly of the local church and the worship of the saints.
Why Should We Prioritize the Local Church?
We are called to prioritize the local church. There is no biblical category for a faithful Christian who neglects or remains disconnected from the local church. In fact, the Scriptures point to the reality that such persons have swerved from the faith and are not to be received as Christians. Consider the words of John the Apostle in 1 John:
1 John 2:18–19 – Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
Elsewhere in Scripture, we see the responsibility of church members to one another. In Hebrews 10:24-25, the Scriptures point to the responsibility to “stir-up” one another to love and good works. This is simply impossible when the gathering of the local church is neglected. The gifts of an individual Christian are inoperative in the life of the church when the local church is not a priority. This harms both the individual Christian and the local church as a whole because every body part matters (see 1 Corinthians 12).
When Christians remove themselves from the regular gathering of the local church, they remove themselves from the direct oversight of pastors who are called to shepherd their soul. Pastors are gifts to the church for the purpose of spiritual nourishment and protection (Eph 4; Heb 13:17). This condition, unless carefully attended to by the pastors, can lead a person vulnerable to spiritual decline and deception by wolves who come in sheep’s clothing through the internet, radio, and television (Acts 20:29-30).
Unless you are a truly homebound member who is prevented from gathering with the local church due to serious health complications, you must resist the urge or temptation to separate yourself from the local church. Consider the following questions as you evaluate your spiritual condition:
- Is my separation from the local church mandatory or voluntary?
- Is my separation from the local church based on physical limitations or some other factor?
- Is my separation from the local church based on an unhealthy commitment to work that has taken priority over my life?
- Is my separation from the local church based on an unhealthy commitment to Christian conferences, political events, or other good things that can prove to be beneficial?
- Is my separation from the local church based on laziness that prevents me from placing priority upon the gathering of the church for corporate worship and fellowship?
- Is my separation from the local church precipitated by an unhealthy obsession with avoiding sickness that has created a phobia of church assembly?
- Is my separation from the local church due to the length of my travel to the location of the church’s campus? If so, why do you choose to live far away from your local church?
- Is my separation from the local church the result of an elevated opinion of myself that has caused me to believe that I’m strong enough or spiritual enough to where I don’t really need the local church as much as others?
- Is my separation from the local church based on an inappropriate definition of the church and the functionality of the gifts within the body of Christ?
- Is my separation from the local church based on selfishness because the church’s worship does not fit my personal expectations?
As you take time to examine yourself and your motives regarding your commitment to your local church, consider the fact that it’s impossible to love Jesus and neglect his church. Voddie Baucham once remarked, “If you don’t love the church, you don’t love Jesus.”1Taken from a Sermon: “An Extraordinary Love for an Extraordinary Church”
The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith in Chapter 26, “Of the Church” we find these words in paragraph 6:
The members of these churches are saints by calling, visibly manifesting and evidencing (in and by their profession and walking) their obedience unto that call of Christ; and do willingly consent to walk together, according to the appointment of Christ; giving up themselves to the Lord, and one to another, by the will of God, in professed subjection to the ordinances of the Gospel (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Acts 2:41-42, 5:13-14; 2 Corinthians 9:13).
Let us consider the joyful privileges and serious responsibilities of covenant church membership that necessitates us sharing life together, submitting to one another, obeying leaders, worshipping corporately, stimulating one another to good works, and growing in the grace of God through the ordinary means of grace. Church membership is not an option to be considered. It’s a priority that is commanded for the life of the Christian.
There is no such thing as a lone ranger Christian. The church is God’s will for the life of every Christian.