The Need for the Local Church

Friends,

In my judgment, this is one of the most important blog posts I have read in recent days (aside from my own, of course 🙂 ). It is posted at Slice of Laodicea here. This is precisely the point I have been making in several posts of my own, and in the course of my regular preaching in my own congregation:

For those in an area without a biblical church, worshiping at home and availing yourself of the solid preaching available through media is sometimes the only option. Far better, I think, is to try to find other like-minded believers to meet with you at home. If there are so few biblical churches today, it’s time to begin some. Perhaps it’s laziness that keeps that from happening. It’s easier to just show up at a church someone else has poured their heart and soul into. We cruise in, we cruise out, and it requires nothing of us. Having godly men who object to the Laodicean churches actually seek God about providing alternatives for their wives and children is the need of the hour. Are there any godly men out there who will rise to the occasion?

The author of Slice is commenting on statements made in an online essay by Jim Elliff here: Home Alone: Do We Still Need the Local Church?

Just for the record, I made a post last evening concerning something I read at Christian Post. It had to do with how to ‘market the church at Easter.’ A new friend of mine, who happens to be an atheist, and who has a blog of his own, responded to my post with these words:

Wow, who would have thought that there were people in religious organizations out there making such cynical calculations about how to best manipulate the people attending services.

Sarcasm aside I do have to confess that I admire your devotion and outrage at what seems to be a deceptive ploy that disregards what you view to be the true message. You’re clearly doing what you believe is right and that deserves some respect. We of course disagree on most all theological points, but I respect you just the same as you have far more integrity than the people who sent you that memo. Kudos my friend.

As you likely get this kind of mail frequently it’s a wonder you’re not more jaded about religion than I am.

Here’s what I wrote back:

To your point, it is terribly disappointing and outrageous that there are people who seek to manipulate and deceive people; and worse that people will. Yes, I am outraged, but even more I am sad; terribly sad. I hate that people think this is what I have to do in order to introduce you to the Jesus of Scripture. We live in a world and culture that is full of propaganda and deception and politicians. I think people want to hear the truth and see the truth backed up and confirmed and honored. In other words, there is something more to ‘church’ or ‘christianity’ than ‘me.’ It is above me, it is more than me, and it overwhelms me. Paul said it this way, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” I don’t think people are hearing that message, or seeing it.

To be sure, I am jaded about religion which is why I have given it up for something better. Paul also said, “For me, to live is Christ.” In my estimation, there is not much at all that passes for Biblical Christianity. It’s not that I have it nailed down perfectly–but grace is amazing. It is the manipulative, deceptive, disgraceful, televangelist, money-grubbing, thieving, graceless church that I cannot stand; nay, I hate. It is that church that I believe turns people away from the good news. I believe in the local church: A group of people who grow together, live together, suffer together, rejoice together, and love one another. This is the church I preach to and in and the church I love and that loves me. I think if you could find a church like the one I belong to, you would understand where I come from.

I disagree with much that the author of Slice writes; I agree with more. On this particular point, we are in perfect agreement. The local church takes priority. Elliff writes in his essay:

Forget the flash and the showmanship. Don’t even try to compete. Leave that to those media churches enamored with such surface concerns. They soon lose meaning to true believers anyway. Pare away all that is trifling—especially the traditions that have lost their meaning because they were only the last generation’s attempts at being up-to-date. Do what is biblical even if it means changing everything. And then you will have meaning. You will be the local church that nobody can think little of anymore.

The local church is needed now more than ever–and for perhaps even more reasons that are listed. Elliff lists some good reasons, but I think even more than his reasons is this: It is in the local church that the Word of God is preached and the grace of God dispensed to the community at large. (Not to mention that when the television preachers do their thing and beg for money at the end of the broadcast, they steal resources from the local church. This prevents, or at least inhibits, the local church from doing its work locally. I’ll say this: The church in Ohio does not need preachers from Texas or California telling us how to do what needs to be done. And the preachers in Madison do not need the preachers from Columbus telling us how to do the work God has called us to do. He established local churches for a reason. STOP STEALING FROM WIDOWS AND ROBBING FROM THE POOR! That’s all that happens.)

Thanks to Jim Elliff for writing this essay and the author of Slice for bringing it to our attention. It is a sorely needed message. And I for one will continue to preach it here and to my congregation. I suspect that when all the televisions in the world finally break, it is the local church that will survive.

Soli Deo Gloria!

jerry

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