In the last few years I’ve seen some amazing people disconnect from their local church. These are very kingdom minded people who have embraced the view that church is not a place we go, it’s what we are. It’s not a building. It’s not a budget. It’s not an address. It’s people. It’s us.
This is, in a very real sense, true.
But then there’s the Bible. The New Testament places the local church front and center in God’s New Creation strategy.
The Bible has lots of things to say about church. Yes, it says much about The Church—that universal expression, the Body of Christ, the Bride. This is the Church global, beyond time and place. This is the BIG THING we’re part of as individual believers. This is the thing we are no matter where we are.
Yes the Bible demonstrates much about Church as a missional, culture engaging and transforming agency of the kingdom.
But this is not all.
The Bible also has much to say about the local church; and it assumes much. The church is locatable. You can write letters to a local church. You can ask that the letter written to your local church also be read at the other local church nearby. Churches can be visited. Churches gather together on a regular basis where they worship, build each other up, participate in sacraments, and receive teaching.
A local church has a defined leadership structure. Apostolic oversight is assumed and authoritative. The saints are being equipped by apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Elders are appointed to lead and govern. Saints are instructed to follow and honor leaders. Offerings are taken. Deacons are appointed. Contributions must be stewarded. This requires budgeting, stewardship and organization—structure.
Discipline is needed. A non-repentant backslider can be put out of the local church.
A local church is a lampstand. And Jesus walks among the lampstands, distinguishing one from the other, with a unique message for each. The messenger providing leadership is a star in Jesus’ hand.
If you’ve been hearing people teach that “we don’t go to church; we are the church,” please don’t allow this truth about church to blind you to every other truth about church. I’m sure your church isn’t perfect. I’m sure there are lots of ways it could be more effective and efficient. But the local church is God’s plan A. He doesn’t have a plan B. To reject the local church in the name of kingdom mindedness is to abandon kingdom mindedness.
Whether you go to a huge mega-church, a Catholic or Orthodox church, a small neighborhood church, a smaller house church—if you gather regularly with a community of believers to worship, participate in the sacraments, and devote yourself to the apostles teaching and to prayer; if you give there, serve there and love there—then you’re part of God’s plan called “church.” If you’re feeling a pull to “be the church” outside of that gathering, in the sense of being a kingdom influence in the culture, do it! But it’s not necessary to forsake the gathering to do that. In fact, I think it’s essential that you don’t.