Frequently, when speaking to people about the Lord, I encounter arguments based on an anti-church sentiment.
“I don’t need a church to worship – I can worship God in nature by watching a beautiful sunset.” Or, “I’m opposed to organised religion – I don’t need a church to tell me how to experience God.”
You’ve undoubtedly heard similar sentiments. Laying aside the possibility they are merely smoke-screens, they likely reflect a person’s fairly low view, if not low esteem, of the role ‘church’ plays in ones faith. This may reflect a previous bad church experience, or perhaps simply a prejudice learned from cultural exposure.
Perhaps even more alarming are similar sentiments expressed by —people who identify themselves as Christians. This idea reflects an ignorance concerning what the Bible has to teach about church. Unfortunately, this ignorance is due to poor biblical teaching, or a complete absence of teaching concerning church.
John Stott writes:
One of our chief evangelical blind spots has been to overlook the central importance of the church. We tend to proclaim individual salvation without moving on to the saved community. We emphasize that Christ died for us ‘to redeem us from all iniquity’ rather than ‘to purify for himself a people of his own’. We think of ourselves more as ‘Christians’ than as ‘churchmen’, and our message is more good news of a new life than of a new society.
Nobody can emerge from a careful reading of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians with a privatized gospel. For Ephesians is the gospel of the church. It sets forth God’s eternal purpose to create through Jesus Christ a new society which stands out in bright relief against the sombre background of the old world. For God’s new society is characterized by life in place of death, by unity and reconciliation in place of division and alienation, by the wholesome standards of righteousness in place of the corruption of wickedness, by love and peace in place of hatred and strife, and by unremitting conflict with evil in place of a flabby compromise with it.
This vision of a renewed human community has stirred me deeply. At the same time the realities of lovelessness, and sin in so many contemporary churches are enough to make one weep, for they dishonour Christ, contradict the nature of the church and deprive the Christian witness of integrity.
The Message of Ephesians
Author’s Preface, page 9-10
“To suggest that Christians can live a healthy Christian lifestyle without regular church attendance would be seemingly contrary to the practice of the early church.”
—Steve Pye “Should Christians Skip Church?“
“The best way to guard a true interpretation of Scripture, the Reformers insisted, was neither to naively embrace the infallibility of tradition, or the infallibility of the individual, but to recognize the communal interpretation of Scripture. The best way to ensure faithfulness to the text is to read it together, not only with the churches of our own time and place, but with the wider ‘communion of saints’ down through the age.”
—Michael Horton, “What Still Keeps Us Apart?”
“It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others.”
—Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Commenting and Commentaries (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1876)
“Tradition is the fruit of the Spirit’s teaching activity from the ages as God’s people have sought understanding of Scripture. It is not infallible, but neither is it negligible, and we impoverish ourselves if we disregard it.”
—J.I. Packer, “Upholding the Unity of Scripture Today,” JETS 25 (1982): 414