The Importance of the Local Church
NOT FORSAKING the assembling of ourselves together, AS THE MANNER OF SOME IS;
but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
If you are a born again child of God, you should know by now that the Word of God teaches that the Body of Christ is also known as the "church". The Greek word for church is ekklesia and it means "called out ones". In other words we are called out of darkness and called out from among the world (1 Peter 2:9 / 2 Corinthians 6:14-17). The Church-at-large is comprised of believers all over the world who worship God in what is referred to as local churches. A local church is a body of believers who share the same vision, mission, and purpose in reaching their community, city, and ultimately the world for Jesus Christ. At least it should be.
The Apostle Paul planted churches in various cities and all of these churches were independent and self-governing. There weren't any denominations or hierarchies. There was no religion. The churches were governed by pastors who had elders under their authority assisting them with the daily responsibilities of the ministry. Although there were some churches that were larger than others in size, such as Corinth and Ephesus, most of the churches Paul ministered to were small. As a matter of fact, we read in the New Testament that churches frequently were held at someone's house (I Corinthians 16:19 / Colossians 4:15). All of these churches collectively made up the Body of Christ as they do now.
In this initial lesson, we're going to emphasize the importance of the local church. First of all, God's Word says in Psalm 92:13 "Those that be PLANTED in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God." It says "Those that be PLANTED..." My friend, God wants you to be planted. Why? This word "planted" is talking about becoming "rooted and grounded". When you become rooted and grounded, you develop stability. That's not something that's talked about in the Church today. People who are stable are settled. People who are settled are committed. They don't wander around. They connect with the vision of a local church, find out how they can get involved, and remain faithful there. Church membership is not just so you can have your name on the church roll. It's important to know that you belong to a family of believers that are going to be there when you need them.
Our opening text in Hebrews 10:25 says that we are not to forsake "...the assembling of ourselves together, AS THE MANNER OF SOME IS..." God's Word Translation says "...We should NOT STOP GATHERING TOGETHER with other believers, AS SOME OF YOU ARE DOING..." The New International Version says "...not giving up meeting together, AS SOME ARE IN THE HABIT OF DOING..." Did you notice that last translation? It says "...as some are in THE HABIT OF DOING..." In other words, it's a bad habit not to go to church!
Unfortunately, their are literally thousands and thousands of Christians who are walking around like spiritual nomads, constantly searching for the "perfect" church much to no avail. Why? There is no such thing! If there was such a thing in existence, when they get there it won't be perfect anymore! This is one of many reasons why so many Christians are still living like "church hoppers". They are focused on the wrong thing. Instead of focusing on growth and development, they are focused on perfection. However, the Bible's definition of "perfection" is maturity. Well, maturity takes time; time that some folks don't want to invest in.
Most "church hoppers" are afraid of becoming a member of a local church because they don't want to get hurt, they don't want to get involved, or a myriad of other excuses that they feel exempts them from becoming committed. Quite frankly, if you are not a member of a local church, you are out of the will of God. You are like "a fish out of water". I know many of you don't want to hear that, but it's the truth, and I will not apologize for the truth.
Psalm 92:13 goes on to say "Those that be planted in the house of the Lord SHALL FLOURISH..." The word "flourish" means "to prosper". God wants you to know that if you are rooted and grounded in the church, you are going to prosper. You can't prosper in the things of God without becoming rooted and grounded, and you can't become rooted and grounded by going to church whenever you feel like it. I've had Christians tell me that they were called to visit different churches every week to receive the benefit of experiencing a different anointing. That's rubbish! You can't become rooted and grounded by hearing part one of something at one church this week, and part five of something else at another church the following week. What you're going to get is a whole lot of confusion, and God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). It's okay to say amen!
The role of a pastor is to "Feed the flock of God..." (1 Peter 5:2) The Bible says in Jeremiah 23:4, when a pastor feeds the flock of God "...they shall FEAR NO MORE, NOR BE DISMAYED, NEITHER SHALL THEY BE LACKING..." When you are prospering, you do not live in fear, you are not dismayed, and you are not lacking. That's what the Word of God will do for you when you become rooted and grounded. So the first important reason for the importance of a local church is because you will be taught the Word of God so you can grow up spiritually. A good pastor will teach you the Word of God precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little (Isaiah 28:9-10). He's going to make sure you are growing spiritually according to the law of progression. Mark chapter four calls it the thirty, sixty, and one hundredfold principle; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. That's how you become established.
Some folks just want to jump from A to Z without learning all the "stuff in the middle", but God did not design the system to work that way. 1 Peter 2:2 says "As NEWBORN babes, desire the sincere MILK OF THE WORD, that ye may GROW thereby..." Hebrews 5:14 says "...STRONG MEAT belongeth to them that are of FULL AGE, even those who by REASON OF USE have their senses exercised TO DISCERN BOTH GOOD AND EVIL." When you went to school, you first had to attend elementary school, then high school, and finally college. Some of you even continued on to graduate school. My point is if you try to expedite the learning process and graduate prematurely you will not become established. What you will end up doing is committing spiritual abortion and find yourself on the spiritual junk heap!
Another important reason for becoming a member of a local church is to have fellowship with other believers. Notice what the Bible says in Acts chapter two:
38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles DOCTRINE AND FELLOWSHIP... - Acts 2:38-41
We've already discussed that one reason for the importance of the local church is because you will be taught the Word of God so you can grow up spiritually. Another reason is to have fellowship with other believers. The Greek word for "fellowship" is koinonia and it means "participation, with the idea of partnership, communing with one another, and sharing." When you get born again, you come out of the world, it's darkness and it's influence. Now it's time for you to develop new, godly relationships, with people of like precious faith that are going to communicate with you about the things of God, as well as life in a way that you all can relate to. Fellowship is all about community, and you're going to need that in your life especially when times get rough and you need a friend to talk to about your problems to receive encouragement and mutual support. Don't neglect this important truth, my friend. Let's look at our next point shall we?
...and in breaking of bread and in PRAYERS. - Acts 2:42
We will not focus on the phrase "...and in breaking of bread...", because it's referring to Holy Communion, in terms of the Lord's Supper. It is an important ordinance of the Church, however, we will not take the time to teach on that subject right now. Notice it goes on to say "...and in PRAYERS..." It's good to know that you can go to church, or call your fellow members, and know that if you need special prayer you can receive it. Notice what it says in James chapter five:
14 Is any SICK among you? Let him call for THE ELDERS OF THE CHURCH; and let them PRAY OVER HIM, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.
15 AND THE PRAYER OF FAITH SHALL SAVE THE SICK, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have COMMITTED SINS, they shall be FORGIVEN him. - James 5:14-15
Praise God, the Church is supposed to be a place of refuge where we can receive forgiveness and healing all at the same time! Maybe you've had bad experiences in church and you don't have much faith and trust in confiding in others for prayer because of that. My suggestion to you is don't throw out the baby with the bath water! You may have gone to a church where things were not being done according to the Scriptures. Well, don't sit around and complain about it and stay sick, broke, sad, and depressed. Make a quality decision today that you are going to find a good, strong, Bible believing church that's preaching and teaching the Word of God in truth and power, where the sinner is receiving salvation, the sick are being healed, the oppressed are receiving deliverance, and God's will is being done. Make sure they have groups for fellowship and the type of support you are needing. Then get connected by taking their membership classes, so you can get plugged in and become a part of what God is doing through the local church in these last days. And most of all, beloved, be faithful! God is looking for faithfulness. Be faithful with your time, your talents, and your finances. That is how He is going to bless you.
PRAYER TO FIND A LOCAL CHURCH:
Dear heavenly Father, I thank You for the Holy Spirit who is my Guide. I pray right now that He leads me in the way that I should go. I will hear His voice, and the voice of a stranger I will not follow. I thank You for giving me wisdom to know Your will, and for the witness of the Holy Spirit in my heart when I find the church I am supposed to become a part of. I believe that I receive guidance for this now in the name of Jesus, Amen!