Our discussion is about those who claim to be believers in Jesus Christ but they have decided not to be part of any local church fellowship anymore. They are no more attending any church or fellowship.
It is beneficial to start with a few pertinent questions. Please think about and feel free to respond to any or all of these questions:
- Why have many Christians stopped being part of any local church?
- Why should a Christian join a local church?
- Have you forsaken the assembly of other believers? Why?
- Have had any unpleasant experience with any church, church official or a member of a church?
- Why do Christian people not go to church?
- Why do Christian people go to church?
- Why do you go to church?
- Why should Christian people go to church?
There are numerous Christians today who have left their local church fellowship with a promise to never return to that church or indeed, any other. They have decided not to be part of any local church again ever. Worse still, any discussion about church and its leaders in many cases, discussion about Jesus Christ elicits a ferocious and negative reaction. To them there is nothing good in any church or fellowship. Their attitude is “I know it all for I have been there, have seen it all and it is all falsehood!”
I read of a story I considered sad and unfortunate: A lady claimed to have become a Christian; later she wanted to be a vicar. The local church she attended was glad, encouraged her and helped into the bible college; she did not finish the bible college because while there she became convinced that all she believed was false; so she returned to being an unbeliever. She left the church. She is now a journalist and a sworn enemy of the church!
Is the Christian in any danger if not part of any local church?
II. Why Some Have departed From Both Church and Faith
Some of the reasons given for their decision not to be part of any church anymore include:
- Bad experience suffered in the hands of pastors, bishops and other church leaders
- Bad experiences suffered in the hands of ordinary members of the church
- Bad moral lifestyle of the leadership of many churches, examples of which include sexual and financial scandals
- I got tired of allowing the pastor to feed fat on my hard-earned money
- Multiplicity of doctrines and practices many confusing and contradicting the bible
- I was not appreciated and did not feel loved
- The church was not doing what I expect them to do
- Proliferation of organizations and denominations that no longer belief in the bible as the final authority for Christians
- Many are confused as to which church organizations are truly of God
- Lack of spiritual direction and nourishment
- In-fighting within and between church leaders and churches
- Incessant demand for and over-emphasis on money and material things under various pretenses e.gs:
- Some will go into extraordinary length to demand first fruits, tithes, diverse types of pledges and offerings but would not go ahead and observe the Sabbath, Jewish festivals and other rituals of Judaism.
- Some sell prayer cloths and shawls, handkerchiefs, oils and other items they claim carry healing and miracle working power from them
- Too many false prophets, false pastors and fake miracles
- Some say it is the leaders [pastors, bishops, archbishops and whatever other titles they hold] that feed fat on the congregation while the congregation that continues to be malnourished spiritually and materially continues to be conned into parting with whatever little they have.
- Some say there is now no difference between the church and the world as the churches are very quick to copy whatever the world is doing. All they do is put the label “Christian” and justify whatever it is by claiming they want to win people to Christ.
These and many others are the reasons many give for not attending church fellowship anymore. Many have even left the Christian faith all together!
Many of the above are true and quite commonplace. Many people including myself have truly encountered so-called Christians, pastors and church leaders and churches whose behaviour are so bad that they could only turn one out of the church and against Christ!
Some questions are in order here:
- But should these nasty experiences be enough to stop true Christians from seeking and identifying true believers in Jesus Christ to fellowship together with?
- In the face of what the bible teaches, is it reasonable to because of bad experience with some people or church assume that the true church of Jesus Christ does not exist anymore?
- Would you stop working for the rest of your life because some bosses, colleagues at work or employers have treated you badly?
- Would you on the basis of personal experience say there is no more any good place to work?
- Would you stop eating food simply because you developed diarrhoea and vomiting a few times after eating certain types of food?
- Could the real reason for forsaking the assembly of other Christians be unbelief and false conversion while the nasty experiences are just the symptoms or excuses? (Mat 13:18-23).
Further to the above, two more questions:
- Can a person who claims to be a Christian be justified biblically not to be part of any local church?
- Can a person who has decided never to be part of any local church still continue to be a Christian?
We need to discuss this because many are genuinely ignorant of the purpose and the role of the local church in the life of the believer.
- Those who still attend also need to challenge themselves privately to know why they are active in church and to know that they are attending regularly for the right reasons.
- There is need to know why a person should continue to attend regularly if he already is, and why he should begin to attend regularly if he is not yet.
- This is because as said in 2Cor 2:11: lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
The genuine Christian should be a member of the local church. Yes, you read that statement right.
But you still ask the question: Why should I, a genuine born-again Christian attend a local church or fellowship? That is exactly what we want to discuss now. Let’s go!
III. Why the genuine Christian should be an active member of a local church fellowship
We have looked at some of the reasons people often give as to why they have stopped going to church or attending fellowship with other believers. We now look at why true converts to Christianity attend and should continue to actively attend fellowship with other believers at a local church. This discussion is about the church of Jesus Christ of the bible. God is the one who established, builds and preserves His church
B. The meaning of church
The church is described with different terms in the Holy Scriptures including that it is constituted by:
- People called out from the world to follow Jesus Christ as His disciples (1Pet 2:9). That is everyone who has genuinely accepted Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord [been born again] is a member.
- They have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and with other Christians (1Cor 1:9; 1John 1:3, 7).
- And as a group the church is:
- the body of Christ,
- the house of God,
- the church of the living God,
- the pillar and ground [foundation] of truth
- 1Tim 3:15; 1Cor 6:27.
- The local church is the instrument through which Jesus Christ has chosen to carry out and carry on the kingdom program until His second coming.
- The church is part of the kingdom of Jesus Christ.
- This kingdom is not of this world but its members are taken from this world.
- Only those who do the will of the Father will enter into this kingdom – John 18:36; Mat 7:21.
- The Word of God is the supreme authority in all matters pertaining to the church and the kingdom.
C. Why a Christian should be an active member of a local church fellowship
1. It is a sign of true conversion (1John 3:14).
- Meeting together of believers was the normal and natural thing in both testaments in the bible.
- In the Old Testament, God commanded His people that the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest and is a time to gather for a holy convocation, a commanded assembly i.e. a time for His people [believers in Him] to gather together (Lev 23:2-3).
- In the New Testament Jesus Christ went to the synagogue on the Sabbath regularly as a place of worship with fellow believers, and He taught there (Mat 9:35, 12:9, 13:54; Mark 1:21, 39).
- The apostles and the early church continued the same practice (Acts 2:42, 9:20, 13.5, 14-15).
- They continued to meet together in small groups [churches] in homes (Acts 20:7; Rom 16:5; Col 4:15).
- Jesus Christ actually referred to His church as little flock (Luke 12:32).
2. In the church believers form a community of people consecrated by and dedicated to God.
- God walks in the midst of His people hence they are to be holy.
- “for the Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy: that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee” (Deut. 23:14).
- He says “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mat 18:20)
- Hence, when the people of God come together, they come together to:
- Worship and honour God
- Fellowship: give a share, take a share
- Witness: bear fruit, testimony, be a blessing, get blessed
- Edification: provoke one another unto love and good works
- Discipleship: we get disciple and help disciple others
- Plan and carry out the program of the kingdom
- He is there all the time in their midst.
3. The church is a place of safety for the believer
i. Attacked from inception
- The church faced opposition and attacks from both within and without from the beginning.
- The Lord warned the church to expect tribulation (John 16:33).
- The apostles warned of attacks from within and without (Acts 20:28-31; 2Tim 3:1-9).
ii. Nature of the attacks
Some of the enemy strategies include:
- flooding the church with false Christians – pastors, prophets, teachers, workers, brethren;
- false doctrine of devils,
- perversion of the gospel,
- spurious signs, lying wonders and signs seekers,
- sinners who flaunt their sinful lifestyle under the guise of being carnal Christians,
- tares or children of the devil sown within the church
- Mat 13:24-30, 24:5,11, 24; Rom 8:6-7, 10:16; 2Cor 11:3-4, 13-15; Gal 1:6-9; 2Thes 2:9; 1Tim 4:1.
iii. The purpose of the attacks
- To steal, kill and destroy whatever is perceived to be of God (John 10:10)
iv. Protection promised by the Lord
- But the Lord of the church Himself promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Mat 16:18), i.e. His church will never die.
- The attack would be diverse, both spiritual and physical, sustained and intense.
- So much so that the Lord asked the questioned if He would find the faith when he comes again (Luke 18:8).
- Though the church as a body will survive, the members of the church are targets and still susceptible to satanic attacks whenever they come out from under the protection offered the church by Christ (1Pet 5:8).
v. Protection provided by the Lord
- Membership is by being born again – accepting Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord and living according to scripture with the help of the Holy Spirit (Rom 10:8-10, 1Cor 15:3-8).
- Their trade mark is obedience to the written Word as supreme in all matters of faith, and
- Obedience to duly constituted church leadership
- Use of the armour provided by the Lord and reinforced by other believers (Eph. 6:10-18),
- The church is one body with many members (1Cor 12:12-14).
- The members are at different levels of development and needs.
- Hence, God has gone into great detail to spell out the credentials and characteristics of the leaders of His church (1Tim 3:1-13; Tit 1:5-9).
- This is so that appropriately qualified leaders can take care of the church in all situations discerning the mind of the Lord (Jer. 3:15; Eph. 4:11-12).
- In addition, various gifts by the Holy Spirit are given to individual members of the church to be used for taking care of the church (1Cor 12:1-14; Eph. 4:11).
- The duty of the church is that of the Godhead: get people who are to be saved from the world and make them fit for the kingdom of heaven.
- Hence, the church is a spiritual environment protected by God.
vi. In the spiritual environment thus established within the church fellowship:
- all members are kept safe,
- are able to receive needed help in facing the challenges of daily living,
- are able to receive adequate spiritual nourishment
- are able to grow and progress towards spiritual maturity
- continue to carry on the work of kingdom building.
- Both old and maturing members are nourished
- New members are brought in and adequately instructed in the ways of the Lord,
- mutual uplifting and encouraging of one another,
- Christian education,
- Recognize, correct and resist error
- training of all age groups with the bible as the authority in all things
- maintain church discipline
- stir up one another unto love and good works
- Hence the command not to forsake the assembling of one another (2Tim 3:15-17; Heb. 10:24-25).
4. Many spiritual benefits are inaccessible to those who may choose to avoid church fellowship or seek God alone:
- the use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit,
- Mutual ministry of one Christian to another within the body of Christ (1Cor 12:1-14; 1Thes 4:18, 5:11; James 5:16);
- Protection of and accountability to the church leadership and other Christians (1Pet 5:1-5).
- Obedience to the word of God (Heb. 10:25).
5. The love of the things of God and the brethren compels us to fellowship together
- “Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house, And the place where thine honour dwelleth” (Ps 26:8).
- “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently” (1Pet 1:22).
- “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death” (1John 3:14).
6. Those who stop coming to fellowship eventually leave the faith
- You cannot be an island for long
- Human beings are social beings.
- People on their own will soon become weak and vulnerable to enemy attacks if they do not fellowship with other church members.
- Those who stop fellowship soon fellowship with unbelievers around them and become corrupted – 1Cor 15:33.
- Those who stop fellowshipping with other believers sooner or later leave the faith.
- They left because they were not genuine, not part of the faith (1John 2:19)
- “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might 4.be made manifest that they were not all of us”
- hence, 1.above.
- It is within the church that friendships are developed, with people of the same faith, people get to know one another and a truly Christian family and community is established. We get to know who are true fellow Christians
- Hence, fellowshipping with one another is crucial to our spiritual growth and safety from false Christianity while eagerly looking forward to the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- It is within the church that each member is encouraged to contribute his share of the love of Christ for the growth of all the church (Eph. 4:16).
- Those who leave the fellowship permanently are those who have not truly believed.
- They allow personal interests, tribulations and cares of the world to lure them away (Mat 13:18-23; 2Thes 2:9-12).
The Christian should attend church fellowship in a local church regularly because:
- It is a sign of true conversion
- In the church believers form a community of people dedicated to God
- The church is a place of safety for the believer
- Many spiritual benefits are inaccessible to those who may choose to avoid church fellowship or seek God alone
- The love of the things of God and the brethren compels us to fellowship together
- Those who stop coming to fellowship eventually leave the faith
To ensure the survival, growth and development of His church, the Lord not only established the church but also detailed its membership, leadership selection, how the church is to conduct its affairs, defined its role and equipped it for success in its duties.
Please: “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves….” (2Cor 13:5).
“Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1Cor 16:13).