When I consider my previous blog regarding the church in Atlanta, GA I can understand this unfortunate trend. There are many things in life that I don’t agree with, but I understand.
The trend, simply put, allows a believer to pursue Jesus Christ as their personal savior without any formal ties or attachments with God’s people.
This arrangement comes into conflict with what the Apostle Paul calls the body of Christ. In using the analogy of a physical body, Paul raises an interesting point:
The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to
the feet, "I don't need you!" 22On the contrary, those parts of the body that
seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and the parts that we think are less
honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25so that there should be no division in the body, but
that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26If one part suffers,
every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
- 1 Corinthians 12:21-26
While I could never argue against the position that there probably are fewer hassles, challenges, and conflicts when one does not belong to a local church, I would contend that growth, development, and maturity are found and refined within the context of belonging. We certainly don’t need the scandals and the ridiculous choices that too many of God’s people find themselves making, but Paul would argue that the scandals and other poor and wrong choices actually validate the local church and its role in our lives. Who’s going to hold us accountable and ask us the uncomfortable questions about our lives? Who’s going to stand with us during seasons of doubt and conflict and allow us the freedom to fail under supervision? Who’s going to encourage us when we find ourselves leaning towards becoming more and more self-conscience and less and less God and others conscience.
The last thing God’s people need is encouragement to isolate themselves from one another and to live under the illusion that “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done” is to be accomplished on an individualized basis. Our need for one another is not just in concept or theory.
I would argue that the problem with scandals and improprieties in the church is not that offenders belong to a local assembly, but that we tend to belong in name only, and having isolated and privatized our walk with the Lord, we find ourselves without meaningful and vital relationships during times of temptation and weakness. People who attempt to walk out their faith alone, even as church members, are far more vulnerable to the adversary and his lies than those who belong, are transparent, and humble enough to “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” – James 5:16
One last thing: I may not like another man’s choice in a wife. I may not think she’s the most attractive woman I’ve ever seen. I may not appreciate the way she carries herself. I may even wonder why she doesn’t dress with a little more taste or class. But regardless of my preferences and opinions, she’s someone else’s wife, and not mine. The church is referred to as the Bride of Christ. She’s His wife, not mine. And I don’t want to be caught ‘dissing’ another man’s bride!
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I don’t understand all of God’s ways or His thoughts. But I do understand this, that he cherishes and is passionate about His church. Not just from a universal point of view, but from a local point of view, as well.
Laboring With You,