Some quit because they were never saved (1 Jn. 2:19). However, when genuine believers depart, relational problems are often the root cause. Yet leaving one’s assembly should be the last option. If we must leave, it’s important to find another local church as soon as possible. Going it alone is not a viable option. In the early church, the believers were continually gathering together in His Name (Acts 2:42-44; 4:31; 12:12; 14:27; 20:7), and the epistles clearly exhort us to meet together with Him (Rom. 12:3-8; Eph. 4:11-16; 1 Cor. 11:18; 14:1-40; 16:1-2; 1 Tim. 3:1-15; Heb. 10:23-25). Every believer is a member of Christ’s body (Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 10:16-17; 12:12-27; Eph. 1:23) and we express our unity (Eph. 4:4) by gathering together in local churches.
Recently, a US survey omitted “to serve” as one of the reasons to attend church.1 This was very revealing. If we attend a local fellowship only to receive, it becomes easy to leave when things don’t go our way. Though we don’t want to minimize legitimate hurts, we must all take heed that we do not become too self-focused. Instead, we need a Christ-focused mindset with a sacrificial desire to build up His body. Remember, when we gather together with other believers we are also gathering together unto Him (Mt. 18:20). He is in our midst and must have the pre-eminence. Hebrews 10:25 exhorts us to not “forsake the assembling of ourselves together.” To desert shows disloyalty to Christ, shirks our responsibility to other believers, and stunts our spiritual growth. If one loses an arm, they will learn to function without it. Yet, the detached arm will stop growing and begin to decay. Similarly, the local church will still function without the detached believer but would be much better with them and their unique gifts. However, the ones who remove themselves cannot thrive spiritually.
Ephesians 4 reveals the link between the local church and spiritual growth – both personal and corporate. First, everyone is unique and by God’s grace can make a distinct contribution to the body’s growth (vv. 7, 16). Second, it is in the local church that we are equipped or prepared for ministry (v. 12). It is where one discovers and develops their spiritual gifts for fruitful service. Third, it is here where we fulfill ministry’s purpose – to promote the spiritual growth of our brothers and sisters (v. 12). Fourth, as we are built up, we continue to mature in doctrine and Christlikeness (v. 13). As the apostle’s doctrine is taught, it nourishes, encourages, and unifies us. This stimulates us to be doers of the word, exemplifying Christ’s loving concern for each believer. Fifth, the truth is proclaimed in an atmosphere of love (vv. 15-16). When one is hurting, there is opportunity to provide comfort. When one needs material help there is opportunity to share. When one requires guidance, there is opportunity to provide wisdom from God’s Word. Finally, there is protection in the local assembly from unscrupulous false teachers (v. 14). Those who say they watch church on TV or online open themselves up to deception. Since the devil is a master deceiver, fellowshipping in a sound bible believing church provides protection from false teaching.
Getting along in God’s family takes love, submission, and hard work. Christ has brought together wide-ranging believers from many nations: Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, married and single, young and old, and republican and democrat. We may have differing interests and opinions but what unifies us is Christ. Since the elders are accountable to God for the flock, if one suggests an idea to them and they say no, let’s respect their decision and pray for them. If someone irritates us, pray for them. Publicly commend others, but when someone wrongs us, talk to them privately. As an artisan once told me, “if you’re not satisfied, tell me, if you are, tell others.” Let’s not criticize other believers but instead be an example to them “in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). If you are presently sitting at home, it’s time to start growing again in a local church.
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