One of the biggest issues right now in American Christendom is the lack of value and importance in the Local Church. We often learn the definitions of Calvinism and Arminianism, and how to debate them, long before we understand what Local Church actually is. Overall, there is a general ignorance on the topic of the local church, and yet it is so central to the christian faith.
Why is the local church important? There are three overarching reasons why the local church is important:
- Personal Edification
- Edifying the Body Through Gifts Given By God
- It’s Commanded By God
I could speak on the importance of Local Church for 7 hours. There is just so much that goes into it, and the Bible has so much to say about it. As a matter of fact, almost every New Testament letter that we read was a letter written to a local church, or to groups of churches.
And in letter after letter, we find Paul and the apostles writing instructions to the churches on how to conduct themselves and to live rightly, even instructing them not to forsake gathering together.
So, I will unpack the three overarching reasons the local church is so important to Christians and dive into how deeply important it is to society.
First, the Local Church is for our own personal edification. I think the local church is God’s means by which to build us up and encourage us.
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.Hebrews 10:24-25
When we consider the above passage, we can clearly see multiple ways the Local Church edifies us personally, while also emphasizing the need to continue meeting together.
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulnessHebrews 3:13
In Hebrews 3:13, however, I see the importance of local church much more clearly stated. And if we were to translate this in American culture, we could reverse it and say, “if you forsake meeting together, you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
The local church is where we find edification; we are able to sit under the Word which is a commanded biblical thing, we are able to take part in communion, which is a commanded biblical thing, we are able to be served by other peoples gifts which is a commanded biblical principle, and we are also able to submit to leaders and in our submission, we learn how to submit to Christ.
There are so many things that happen within the local church that cannot be found outside of the church. Yes, you can find an accountability partner, but that accountability doesn’t necessarily match that which the local church holistically carries.
Using Giftings to Edify the Church
God’s army does not enlist Privates. In other words, He gave us spiritual gifts not to keep to ourselves, but to take and give back to the body of Christ in order that it might be edified.
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms1 Peter 4:10
Verses like 1 Peter 4:10 and chapter 12 in 1 Corinthians speak on the importance of the Local Church actively using their gifts to edify and encourage the church. If someone has the gift of teaching, it is good for them to meet one on one with a person, but it is far more beneficial to the church if they speak and teach the body as a whole.
God did not give us gifts to be greedy with, we need to be actively giving and receiving in the church. If your gift is the gift of hospitality, administration, serving, healing, intercession, whatever it is, these gifts should be poured out and received for the sake of the edification of others.
Local Church is Commanded by God
The idea of being a Christian while not part of the local church is a foreign concept in the New Testament. You may see individual followers for a moment, but that is only because they were amongst unreached people groups, but you quickly find that they plant local churches.
Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to youHebrew 13:17
As Christians, we are called to love our neighbors and this can be done on a day to day basis, unconnected to the local church. But, we find that loving others is best carried out in the Local Church.
We think of things like submitting to Church leadership as stated in Hebrews 13, some are on the defense about submitting to leadership because they think it’s selfish for leadership to ask for submission. But the reality is, this scripture is showing the gravity and responsibility of leadership.
Church leadership is there to keep watch over the church body’s souls, and if Christians are not committed to a local church, how can they even answer this command?
The idea of having someone stop you in your sin, calling you out so that you don’t fall off the path, is such an incredible concept and should excite us! We should always long to have serious followers of Christ, church elders, and/or leadership, in our lives who are willing to admonish us if we fall into sin.
As a result of these disciplines from church leadership, we are given the opportunity to repent and turn back to Christ.
The bottom line is we need each other, we cannot, nor are we meant to, do this Christian walk alone. And while we may meet with friends outside of the local church, and spur one another on in that way. The Local Church is so deeply important and powerful.
It is exceedingly important to understand the importance of the local church, because today, we have many very prominent people teaching that the Local Church is not important.
Local church is the place in which Christians come together and share the same mission, the local church is empowering, and it is what builds up the greater body of Christ.
Responding to Those Who Have Been Hurt by Local Church
About once a week, I hear someone share a story of how they were hurt by the church. It’s true that something as powerful as the local church has the potential to yield a lot of harm. But take marriage, for instance, if a spouse finds themselves in an abusive relationship, we would not say, “marriage is bad”, but instead, “that marriage is bad.” Marriage, in reality, is such an amazing thing, and in the same way, we can apply this thought to the church.
The church as a whole is not bad or wrong, therefore, we have to remember not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and that there will never be a perfect church until Jesus comes back makes all things perfect.
Even in what seems like a perfect church, there will be room for mistakes, distrust, etc. But this is where we thank God for grace, and actively work to forgive those who hurt us. This is a very real thing and I do not seek to minimize it in the slightest, but it is important to keep trying.
“If you love deeply, you’re going to get hurt badly. But it’s still worth it.”C.S. Lewis
We live in a fallen world, and love opens the door to pain. Jesus loved us so very deeply, and He chose to experience the greatest pain, on our behalf. This doesn’t lessen how wrong the action was, nor mean that you should not be hurt, but rather, it should urge us on towards forgiveness and a continual embracing of the Local Church.
Here are a few books covering the topic of the Local Church, they are very informative and helpful for the Christian who is seeking a deeper understanding of the Local Church and its importance.
- Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus (by Jonathan Leeman)
- What Is a Healthy Church Member? (by Thabiti M. Anyabwile)
- Thabiti Anyabwile’s Blog “PURE CHURCH”: blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/thabitianyabwile
How the Local Church is Important to Society
In many of my other posts, I have talked about the sacred-secular divide and broken down how the local church transforms society, but this time we’ll take a deeper look, and even dive into some history of how the local church has influenced and changed societies and nations.
The Local Church Changes Societies
First, we need to clearly understand that God never meant for the Church to be confined to the church. This simply means that the work of the pastor and the work of an entrepreneur are equally holy when done unto the Lord. We need to break down the divide that says unless you’re working in the context of the church, you’re not working to expand the Kingdom.
The truth is, we are both spiritual and physical beings; God created the physical and the spiritual, and on top of that, He gave us dominion and stewardship over the earth.
With this in mind, we need to consider how God’s original intent before the fall, and the restoration that we now live in play out in our lives today.
God created a perfect and good world, then He gave it over to us to shape and work. So in the beginning work was established by God as a gift, not something to dread or survive through, but instead, to enjoy and worship God through. It was not until the fall that work became toilsome because sin at that point entered the world and distorted everything. But the original intent still remained, and we will look at this a little more in-depth.
To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar.Daniel 1:17-20
The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.
Looking at Israel, we find a people who are completely set apart and unstoppable. These people were empowered through obedience to God and always stood out among the nations, they were called to be a light to the world, a display of God’s power, might, and holiness. And Daniel and Joseph are two examples of God-fearing Israelite men that utterly outshined every pagan Babylonian or Egyptian they were surrounded by.
These men were placed in great positions of influence and authority, first because they revered the Lord and were obedient to Him, and second because they were proactive in their endeavors to serve the Lord.
But fast-forward now to Jesus dying on the cross for our sins. It was through this great sacrifice that the Local Church was birthed, and the Holy Spirit was received, empowering the people of God to live transformed lives that in turn transform lives.
Through the empowering of the Holy Spirit, we are enabled and called to transform societies, stepping into the original design of authority and dominion. And to top it off, Christians and the Local Church should be ten times better at everything, because we are filled with the Spirit of God.
William Carey as an Example
Let’s now take a look at a well-known missionary who literally transformed India through entrepreneurship and innovation. His name, as I am sure you can guess, is William Carey.
William Carey was born in the UK in 1761, and in 1793 he uprooted his life and his family and moved to India as a missionary, and there he remained until the day he died.
He was known for many things among which was his advocacy of equality for women, he also started schools because he believed that alongside prayer, superstition and fear––the greatest obstacle he and the Indians faced, could be combatted with education. He was a botanist, businessman, and innovator as well; Carey’s goal was to bring the Gospel to the people of India, and he understood that people of India were under a great shroud of darkness and fear, and in order to peel that back replace it with the Gospel, the work must go deep.
He started a community of believers there and paved the way for more missionaries to enter and influence India; by the time of his death in 1834, there were over thirty missionaries throughout India, forty native teachers, and approximately six hundred church members.
Carey is by far one of my greatest inspirations as I seek out a life in ministry and missions through entrepreneurship, I think his obedience and actions paint the complete picture of the Gospel. It is clearly seen in the Bible that God looks to do complete works, not just bits and pieces.
Of course, we do not live for this world, but God meets both physical and spiritual needs, and since this is God’s heart, it is also the Local Church’s heart.
First, we understand just how the Local Church is important to believers, but then as we meet together and are encouraged and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we take that to our communities. But not only are we called to go into our communities, but we are also called to go into our communities and be the best at what we set our hands to, we are to be so different in comparison to those who surround us that people are drawn to and intrigued by us.
If you are looking for more information on William Carey, here is a great article covering his life and works: https://bethanygu.edu/blog/stories/william-carey/
The Local Church Is The Moral Standard of Society
As with Israel, the Local Church is the moral standard of the world. Just as God called Israel to a higher standard, laying forth laws that covered everything from personal hygiene to how to carry out judgment against a murderer, He has called us, the Local Church to be the image of his righteousness.
Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”Genesis 18:20-21
The example of Sodom and Gomorrah extends far beyond just this single city that is recorded in detail as being destroyed by God for their wicked acts. We see time and time again in history and in other stories in the Bible that societies that have strayed the furthest from these laws, that live in direct opposition to His commands, always crumble, and are destroyed.
The righteousness of God is not set in place to condemn people or nations but is actually the opposite. Nations that follow these moral standards are the most prosperous and free.
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.Matthew 5:14-16
It is this moral standard, and because we’ve been called to infiltrate and immerse the culture in God, that brings us to another example of how the Local Church is so important to society, and that is the school system and politics.
Just as Daniel and Joseph were given great responsibilities to give guidance to kings and thus save nations, the Local Church is called and given the same amazing opportunity. Though teachers hands are very tied when it comes to speaking on Christianity in any way other than historically, there is power in having believing teachers in the school system.
Additionally, in our political system, though different from in the times of Pharoah and Nebuchadnezzar, God uses the local church to influence the political system, and in turn, save nations.
The Local Church Overseas
I read an article by Rachel Boyer of World Vision, that perfectly articulated the power and importance of the Local Church in an overseas setting, and I found that the work that was done there can also be applied to us here in America.
In her article, she explained the difference between humanitarian work, and work done with the Gospel at the center.
…It hadn’t occurred to me that our faith might be an asset and important ingredient in our work to end poverty. However, if we simply did humanitarian development work with no faith component, we wouldn’t be holistically taking care of people—mind, body, and spirit. We would leave the puzzle incomplete because the roots of poverty are often spiritual.
In her work, she heard stories and encountered men who would spend their afternoons getting drunk, then they would proceed to beat their wives. In general, they lived lawless lives. But they undertook some training with the organization she is a part of, and through this training, they began to understand their value in Christ, and in turn, they were transformed, and this resulted in a transformed community.
This is the difference between Local Churches and humanitarian work; while the work of the red cross, and other organizations that seek to end hunger and restore stability to countries, or even locally in America, are good, the Local Church has Jesus Christ who deals with the root of all issues––the heart.
As Boyer said, “the roots of poverty are often spiritual,” and since this is the case, people who only seek to fill physical needs, while neglecting the spiritual, will be far less effective. In fact, it has been proven, nations that receive free food and clothes, etc. on a mass level, have actually been crippled.
Nothing on earth has greater potential to change lives and carry out His kingdom work in your community, than your local church. There’s nothing like the local church when it’s working right. Its beauty is indescribable. Its power is breathtaking. Its potential is unlimited. No other organization on earth is like the church. Nothing even comes close.Bill Hybels
This does not mean that the Local Church gives out food and clothes to meet needs on in exchange for the acceptance of salvation, not at all. But, what this does mean, and what it does show us is that the Local Church actually equips, restores, and empowers people to change and be set free of the cultural view and circumstances they were born into.
The Local Church displays the mighty hand of God and how He deeply cares about ALL aspects of the Christian life. This is just another huge reason the Local Church is so important to society.
Jesus is the hope of the world and the local church is the vehicle of expressing that hope to the world.Andy Stanley
The local church is essential to the believer and unbeliever alike, it sustains the believer and urges them on, while also bringing life to those who are lost and without hope. The Local Church is without a doubt, the only means by which the world is transformed and saved.