Loving The Local Church

shutterstock_182263787-cathedralWhat’s so great about the local church? Why should you bother to go into the four walls of a church and risk being hurt or misunderstood? What would compel you to “strive to excel in building up the church” (1 Corinthians 14:12)? Here are five reasons to love the local church and be an integral part in it. They’re not exhaustive, but they’re a start.

The church is the picture of God’s ultimate plan.
Wouldn’t it be nice to know where the world is heading? You can. God’s ultimate plan is to unite all things under the rule and reign of Jesus (Ephesians 1:10). But here’s the question: How do you know that God’s plan is moving forward? Not by listening to the nightly news, but by looking at the local church. Paul explains that it is through the church that the wisdom of God’s plan for the world is being displayed (Ephesians 3:10). How? Because it’s in the local church where people from all different races, genders, ages, personalities, social and economic backgrounds are coming together under the reign of Jesus. This can’t happen if “church” is viewed simply as a spiritual hang out with friends that already like each other. It’s only when the radical diversity of many is seen under the leadership of Jesus that the advancement of God’s ultimate plan for the world is displayed.

The church is the people Jesus loves.
The church is the bride of Christ whom he loves, and are not Christians called to love what Jesus loves? Imagine it like this: What if a husband was told, “I really like you, but I can’t stand your wife.” Any faithful husband is going to be very offended by that. Not because his wife is perfect, but because she’s his wife. Jesus is a faithful husband. If you persecute the church, then you’re persecuting him. Jesus loves the church, died for the church, and has promised to build the church. There’s a Peanuts comic where Linus says, “I love mankind; it’s people I can’t stand.” The point is that it’s easier to love things in the abstract, but it’s harder to love things in particular. Likewise, it’s not enough for Christians to just say they love the universal church; Jesus wants his followers to love the local church not because she’s perfect but because she’s his.

The church is a project worked on by the Holy Spirit.
There are many Christians who consider themselves spiritual, but the local church just isn’t for them. Yet Paul tells the Corinthians that if they want to be spiritual and see the Holy Spirit at work in their lives, then they need to join the Spirit in what he’s working on, namely building up the church. The Holy Spirit is committed to two primary things: bearing witness to Jesus and building up the church. This means that if someone is following the Spirit, then he’s going to find a local church to help. Now it may take some time to find the right church, and there may be circumstances where you have to leave a church, but if you’re being led by the Spirit, you’re going to be led into the church because that’s what he’s committed to building up.

The Church is where God uniquely manifests his presence.
The church is the special people of God, but it can also be referred to as a special place where God uniquely manifests his presence. God is present everywhere, but he was uniquely present in the Jewish temple. The church is now called the temple. There’s a great description of this unique presence of God where an unbeliever enters the church, the secrets of his heart are disclosed and he falls on his face in worship and declares that God is really present (1 Corinthians 14:24-25). Now what happened? The secrets of the unbeliever’s heart were disclosed bringing conviction of sin, but also the secrets of God’s heart of love and forgiveness were disclosed and this brought about comfort and worship through the gospel. This doesn’t happen by sitting on the couch eating cookies and sipping coffee amongst Christian friends. This type of presence happens when the people of God come together under the word and sacrament and interact with the God of both conviction and comfort.

The church is the pillar of God’s truth in the world.
Lastly, Paul calls the church the pillar of truth (1 Timothy 3:15). A pillar doesn’t create something; it upholds something. Thus, the church doesn’t create the truth; she’s meant to uphold the truth. The church is meant to uphold the doctrinal truth of the Bible and the truth of who Jesus is to the world. This is why the church is called the body of Christ. Jesus was the incarnation of God to the world, and the church is meant to be the incarnation of Jesus to the world. The church is meant to love others in a way that demonstrates the character of Jesus until he comes. Hopefully with these things in mind, more Christians will love the local church, not because of what she is in their sight, but rather what she is in God’s sight.

Jeremy McKeen is the lead pastor of Truth Point Church. Jeremy received his B.A. in communications and philosophy from Florida Southern College and his MDiv from Knox Theological Seminary.

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