“Churchless Christianity?” (Part 2)


Today is part 2 of a post that sets out to answer the question, “what does the Bible teach about ‘churchless Christianity'”? In other words, what are we to make of those who claim to be believers, yet avoid the church? These last five points conclude the answer. They remind us of the necessity of conforming to God’s plan for the faith.

6. Basic human wisdom.

Straight up—it is wise to be part of a church. Do you have children? Do you believe that in this life you will experience terrible suffering? Will a loved one pass away? Do you think you might grow old? In light of the trouble and misery that this life brings, it seems wise to be part of a Christ’s body. I know unbelievers who get this and hang around the church. How much more those who claim to be Christians?

 7. There is no category for “Christians” outside the church in the Bible.

There is something scary about this observation. It is not uncommon to meet people in our day who claim to be “Christians,” yet refuse to assemble with God’s people. There is no category in the Bible for people who belong to God, yet reject participation in His church. In fact, the Bible makes it a black and white issue: either you are saved and part of a church or you are unsaved and not a part of the church. Despite attempts to blur the line and make the church palpable to nonbelievers by “seeker-sensitive” church models, the Bible leaves no wiggle room:

“They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.” (1 John 2:19)

I know people who quit participating. It is really sad. They didn’t go somewhere else—they quit. First John 2:19 teaches that believers are in a church; non-believers are not.[1] Genuine believers are part of a biblical church because they are God’s children.

8. A genuine believer desires to be there.

Don’t get me wrong—there are times when we don’t “feel” like being part of the church. But don’t be self-deceived either. When a person trusts in Christ for salvation, the Spirit of Christ immediately and permanently dwells within his/her soul (Rom 8:9, Eph 1:13-14). There is a brand-new mine of desires unearthed! New priorities, new purpose, and new affections now reside in the Christian—“For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good  pleasure” (Phil 2:13). A genuine believer has the Holy Spirit and wants to obey the Lord.

9. The significant impact on the believer’s spiritual health.

The shepherd watches sheep and this is an observation from flock-watching. Every person I’ve met who has forsaken the body of Christ is spiritually broken. In other words, when a departure happened, it never resulted in increased spiritual maturity. The collapses revealed spiritual fractures. Ironically, the Lord uses His church to bring about healing, the very organism now discarded. Walking away from the church is the testimony of a heart in need. God has given His children one another to help the hurts.

10. “You all”

The way the Lord addresses His churches shows He knows His people are in churches. He spoke to His churches through letters penned by His apostles. The Apostle Paul wrote 13 different letters and in them the Lord addressed His people as “you all” 713 times. The English does not convey this well; our closest match to the Greek is “y’all.”[2] God primarily addresses groups, not individuals. He addresses groups because it is within them that His people are found.

In conclusion, I pray that God’s children would hear their Father’s voice on this matter. God’s will is that God’s people are in God’s house on God’s day. But, more than that, genuine believers are part of a new family the Bible calls “the church.” I contend that basic Christianity includes regular participation in a solid church. God rewards and sanctifies His children in the context of a local church. It is His plan; it is His will that Christians gather together.

 


[1] The message of Scripture is that “outsiders” are the unsaved. See Col 4:5, 1 Thess 4:12, 1 Tim 3:7.

[2] The second person singular [S] pronoun is “you.” This is true of English and Greek. To convey the meaning of a second person plural [P] pronoun (addressing a group), we would use slang and say “you’s” or “y’all” in English. There is no proper second person plural pronoun in the English language—it always appears as “you” in the Bible! The Greek, however, is quite clear and the difference can be seen. Dr. William Mounce illustrates how unnoticeably the shift happens in English between the one person “you” and the two or more “y’all”: Jesus answered and said to him, [v.50] “Because I said to you that I saw you [S] under the fig tree, do you [S] believe? You [S] will see greater things than these.”  [v.51] And He said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you [P], you [P] will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:50–51). In v.50, Jesus is speaking directly to Philip. In v.51, He is addressing a group—“y’all.” It is the Lord’s pattern to address His people, the church, as a group throughout the writings of the NT letters, not as individuals.

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