In my most recent blog I shared my honest feelings about how difficult it is for me to understand how someone who is a Christian can’t find, one hour and fifteen minutes to attend a service completely devoted to worshiping God. I understand that this is really not much of an issue to someone who doesn’t understand the importance of church from a biblical perspective. So, humor me, and let me take a minute to write about that.
The New Testament repeatedly emphasizes the importance of local assemblies (another name for church). This is clear from the ministry of the Apostle Paul as he established local congregations in the cities where he preached the gospel (see the Book of Acts). In addition, Hebrews 10:24-25 not only commands every believer to be a part of such a local body but also reveals why this is necessary. 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. (NIV) It’s in the local body where we find the intimacy that is required to spur one another on "to love and good deeds." And it’s in this setting that we can encourage one another.
Here’s another thing. The New Testament teaches that every believer is to be under the protection and nurture of the leadership of the local assembly/church. These godly men shepherd believers by encouraging, admonishing, and teaching them and by providing accountability. Hebrews 13:7 says, Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. (NIV) Hebrews 13:17 says, Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as ones who must give an account. Do this so their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. (NIV) This is something that should be noted by Christians who show more loyalty to various para-church ministries, Bible studies and Bible Clubs than to the local church. Those kinds of “ministries” don’t have the same God ordained structure as the local church. And if this were not enough, Paul gave Timothy special instructions about “public meetings” (another name for church) when he wrote in I Timothy 4 :13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. (NIV) This is exactly what happens at MPCC every Saturday night and Sunday morning, we read the Scriptures and then give an explanation and application.
But perhaps the best example of the importance of the local church comes from Acts 2:42 where we see exactly what the first church did when they met together. They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (NIV) In the New Testament church the believers gathered so they could learn God's Word and how it impacted their lives. They gathered, not only to learn, but also to carry out acts of love and service to one another. And when they gathered they commemorated the Lord's death and resurrection through the breaking of bread; and they prayed. Of course, we can do these things individually, but God has called us…given us the privilege of doing them through the local church. In Acts 2:42 it was the local church in Jerusalem.
Here’s the bottom line, active participation in the local church is imperative to living a life without compromise because it’s through the ministry of the local church that a believer can receive the kind of teaching, accountability, and encouragement that is necessary for him to stand firm in his convictions. God has ordained that the church provide the kind of environment where an uncompromising life can thrive. And at Mount Pleasant Christian Church it all begins with a commitment to one hour and fifteen minutes.