It is impossible to follow Jesus and not love the church. This must be clearly understood if you desire to obey the Lord and have a right relationship with Him. There is no place for rubbish such as, “I love Jesus, I just don’t love the church.” If there is any doubt about this, consider what Jesus said about the church:
“He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
– Matthew 16:15-18
Jesus made a a declaration about faith and the church. He said that on the rock of faith in Himself, that His plan was to build His church and that no enemy of it would be successful in bringing it down. Understand Jesus is not talking about a church built on power, or money, or social concern. He is talking about the true church that is built on faith and on the gospel. This church will succeed and its enemies will fail. You can make excuses about other kinds of churches, but this church, wherever you find it, needs no excuse. It is not made up of perfect people but it faithfully proclaims a perfect savior. Its walk, no matter how flawed, never overshadows but rather complements its witness. This kind of church is the church that Jesus loves.
This also raises another point. How can you truly love Jesus, but not love what He loves? Jesus loves the church. The scriptures make this abundantly clear:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
– Ephesians 5:25-27
Jesus loved the church so much, that He gave his life for it setting forever an example for how husbands should love their wives. If Jesus loves the true church this much, we should give it the attendance, prayer, and financial support we would give Jesus were He here among us. In fact, the scripture teach us that when the true church gathers, that Jesus indeed dwells among us:
“For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
– Ephesians 2:18-22
Still think you can skip out on church and still worship God? If this doesn’t clear up the matter for you, nothing will:
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
– Hebrews 10:24-25
When we neglect to meet together as the true church that is built on Christ and that teaches the gospel word in the gospel community, we are defrauding our selves and God. We need one another. We are flawed and we need to come together to encourage one another and find healing for our sin. This means not just meeting to hear God’s word preached but meeting to live our lives among one another. You cant do this by waving at each other from across a sanctuary or chatting for a few minutes after the service in the vestibule. It means getting into each others lives. Sure it means being vulnerable and at times getting messy but there is no other way.
If you are not part of a gospel centered community of believers, you know what you need to do. Here are a list of suggestions from Pyromaniacs blogger Dan Phillips:
- Pray, committing yourself to attending a church; and attend somewhere while you look.
- Yellow pages. (But what to look for?)
- Ads in Saturday newspapers.
- Map out all the schools in the area, and drive around between 9:45-11:15am taking down names to follow up later.
- Bulletin-board in local Bible bookstore.
- Ask around, any Christians you can find.
- Denominational web sites (— like GARBC, PCA, Reformed Baptists)
- Nine Marks church search site.
- Founders-friendly churches.
- Gospel-centered churches (from The Gospel Coalition; thanks to Justin Taylor for the reminder).
- FIRE churches.
- TMS grads.
- BibleBB directory.
- Google maps, go to your area, enter church
- Ask pastor friends in other areas if they know anyone in your area.
- Call Seventh Day Adventist churches and Jewish synagogues, and ask if any church is renting their facility on Sunday.
- Check out community centers and YMCAs to see if any are rented by a church on Sunday
I suggest you give them a try, and soon. You don’t know what you’re missing.
HT: Justin Taylor