Does the Local Church Still Matter?

By Dillon Burroughs

A growing number of Western Christians have dropped out of local church life, claiming their disdain for organized religion has caused them to love Jesus but also want to leave the church. In a day and age when believers can download the world's top sermons and songs at will, does the local church still matter?

The Bible is clear that identifying with other believers is important. First, Jesus taught that the Church, as an entire body of believers, is the bride of Christ. In Ephesians 5:22, the Church is called Christ's body. Verse 25 teaches that Jesus gave His life up for the Church. Why? "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" (v. 26). That's extremely important!

In addition to Christ's high view of the Church as a body of believers, we find that Scripture affirms the encouraging nature of a gathering of believers as a local church: "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). Though some in the first church were already neglecting gathering together, the Bible teaches that the church helps encourage believers, helping to promote love and good works. As the end of time nears, church involvement is to increase, not decrease.

Of course, much of the debate about whether or not to attend weekly services centers on how one defines "church". The first church consisted of the believers from the upper room in Acts 1-2, a total of approximately 120 people. This was a house church — a really packed house! Once the Spirit came upon these believers at Pentecost, 3,000 joined their number, creating an instant megachurch. Yet Acts 2:42-47 describes a tremendous unity in the first church:
"And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved."
Despite their large numbers, they gathered as smaller groups in homes as well as in larger groups whenever possible. Simple in structure, this movement became the foundation for the expansion of Christianity, the faith countless individuals follow today.

Does the local church still matter? It does to God. He created it, empowered it, and developed it as the gathering of God's people to honor Him in this life as believers seek to live transformed lives (Romans 12:1-2) and fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). The local church is not only a good idea; it is vital for the growth and development of every believer.

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Published 2-18-13