To the reader of this blog, may I ask you some questions:
- Do you love the church?
- Do you believe that the church is still necessary or has the church become merely a convenience in your life?
- Do you believe that church attendance is a necessary component of your sanctification?
- Do you prize the local church or do you treat her like other commodities that you shop for?
- Do you love your leaders or do you criticize them because they aren’t your favorite preachers?
- Do you believe that you can gain more spiritual nourishment at home rather than at the local church?
- Do you see the church as the bride of Christ purchased by His blood or is the church here merely to fit your agenda?
- Does taking holiday vacations mean that you take vacations from the church?
- Do you love the members of your local church or are they a burden to you?
- Is corporate worship the high point of your week or do you treat it as part of your weekly to-do list?
- Do you believe that sporadic church attendance harms your growth as a Christian?
- Do you believe that you need pastors and elders who keep watch over your soul?
- Have you blamed the church for the problems within our modern society?
- Are you a “church shopper” because you are easily offended by the members of your local church?
- Have you stopped praying for your local church and your elders?
- Do you need a vacation from your local church in order to find God?
- Do you love corporate worship on the Lord’s Day or is the gathered worship merely a “pick-me-up” for the week?
- Have you stopped financially giving to the church because pastors are “crooked”?
- Do you believe that you will eventually out-grow the need for the local church?
- Do you merely endure the members of your local church so that you can get what you need from God on the Lord’s Day?
- What is it about the church that you love?
- Are you committed to the local church and its mission or are you seeking for a better deal?
- Have you dismissed these questions because you believe that you aren’t the problem?
I’ve posed these questions not to bring shame, but to raise important heart issues. There have been wonderful books written that have expounded on the doctrine of the church and its importance in the life of the Christian. However, in spite of these works, many professing Christians continue to drift away from the local church and others reject the local church itself as a valid institution. George Barna’s research testifies to these contemporary attitudes towards the organized church. He writes that evangelicals
… are less interested in attending church than in being the church … [and] we found that there is a significant distinction in the minds of many people between the local church – with a small ‘c’ – and the universal Church – with a capital ‘C’. [They] tend to be more focused on being the Church … whether they participate in a [local] church or not.
This raises the question on whether one can actually love the universal church if they have ignored the local church. Barna goes on to write:
A common misconception … is that they are disengaging from God when they leave a local church. We found that while some people leave the local church and fall away from God altogether, there is a much larger segment of Americans who are currently leaving churches precisely because they want more of God in their life but cannot get what they need from a local church. They have decided to get serious about their faith by piecing together a more robust faith experience. Instead of going to church, they have chosen to be the Church, in a way that harkens back to the Church detailed in the Book of Acts.
Barna’s opinion seems to fit the ethos of our day because we live in a deeply anti-institutional and anti-authoritarian world that honestly believes that we can “piece together a more robust faith experience” outside the church. The purpose of this blog series is to challenge our understanding and commitment to the local church. This series will not be a scholarly exposition of the doctrine of the Church (since there are many good works on this topic), but it will be a series in which we search out our motives and uncover our hidden presuppositions regarding our view of the local church. If we aren’t careful and discerning regarding the influences within the age we live in, then even confessional Christians will gradually drift away from the local church.