Why do I need to go to church? I can be a believer in my own home can’t I? This is a question I often hear and it is often justified by the accusation that many Christians who go to church are hypocrites anyway. This is by someone who is also a hypocrite, for all people are hypocrites sometimes and in some ways. This then does not justify separating oneself from the church.
The reason for not being a member of a church is usually a fight with someone in the church, unwillingness to submit to the judgement and authority of the church, unwillingness to live as a Christian should, or even anger at God. Then anything can serve as justification for not actively belonging and participating in the life of a congregation. However, those self justifications are empty.
The Bible clearly teaches that a church is an organised body with a shepherd, elders and deacons who guide, teach, govern and show mercy in Christ’s name (Ephesians 4:11-16; Titus 1:5-11; 1 Peter 5:1-11).
It clearly teaches that the local church is a body of believers all with different gifts which are given by God for the wellbeing of the whole congregation and we are obliged to use our gifts readily and cheerfully in its service (Romans 12:1-8; 1 Corinthians 12).
It clearly teaches that we must not give up meeting together as some do, but we must encourage each other and so much more as we see the Day of Christ’s return approaching (Hebrews 10:24-25).
A solitary Christian imagines that they can be complete in themselves. We cannot. We need each other in the body of the Church. The Bible calls the church the body of Christ, and outside of it there is no salvation. If the situation is normal and if you are not a member of a church you live in disobedience. Membership is not a pie in the sky thing. You cannot say: I believe in Christ and so I am a member of His invisible church although I do not attend any church. Only membership in a church places you in the body of Christ.
So now comes the question to which church must I belong. This question confronts anyone outside the church and often even in a church. The answer is, you should join that church which teaches and lives the truth.
However, you will not know the truth unless you read the Bible. You cannot judge truth on the basis of your own likes and dislikes, nor on what services they provide, or what programs they run, or on your enjoyment of the worship services.
To be able to judge to which church you should belong you must read and understand the Bible properly. You must read with your eyes opened by God to understand, because natural man is spiritually blind. You must read praying that God will open your eyes to understand. And if He does you will come to the reformed faith, for that is the most Biblical of all.
In the years after Christ there was only one church under the guidance of the apostles and prophets. However, even then the apostles wrote of false prophets, of messengers of Satan. Over the years the church degenerated and fell away from the truth. It became enmeshed in power politics and materialism and its teaching of how you become righteous before God had become false.
Then came the reformation of the church. It began with Luther and continued with Zwingli, Calvin and others who taught that you become righteous before God only by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Calvin was the better theologian of that era. He had to fight on various fronts, mainly against the Roman Catholic errors and against the Anabaptist errors, chief of which was the redefinition of the church as a body of believers only. Children were locked out.
Another error, which is native to all human religions is the tendency to self salvation. We must do something to be saved. This error existed in the Roman Catholic Church where it was believed that mankind was not totally corrupted, and that believers were required to do good works to be saved. It raised its head also in the Reformed churches and was called Arminianism after the man who promoted it. He taught that man was not corrupt in every aspect of his being and therefore could choose for God with a bit of help from God’s grace, but he could also fall away again into unbelief.
The problem is that is not what the Bible says. It says you cannot enter or see the kingdom of God unless you are born from above or again of water and the Spirit (John 3:1-8), which is creation symbolism from Genesis 1:2. Again it says that the children of God are born of the will of God, not of the will of man in John 1:13. We are born of God’s grace. We cannot boast in ourselves in any way. We are saved and preserved purely by grace through faith as 1 Corinthians 1:8,9, 29-31 clearly states (cf also 1 Thessalonians 5:23,24).
Since the time of the Reformation the church has split many times. There are so many varieties on offer that it is confusing. Today Bible believing churches are generally classified as either fundamentalist or evangelical. Both terms are hard to define as many churches can be defined either way. Some use the term ‘fundamentalist’ as a pejorative term meaning literalists or legalists, while evangelicalism could often be better spelt as evanjellycalism.
It has been infected by every error under the sun. We see Arminianism, we see various degrees of Jesus idolatry, where grace only is preached, but sin is not rebuked. We also see various degrees of Pentecostalism which is an idolisation of the Holy Spirit. We see materialist business models; we see evolution taught; we see the prosperity gospel promoted; we see parachurch organisations that are churches in all but name, but not organised on the Biblical model. Evangelicalism has adapted itself to man and not to God.
The ecumenical push which dominated the churches in the 20th century said love unites and doctrine divides. Love replaced Biblical teaching in the order of priorities. Doctrine, which divided, was downplayed and so truth was lost and love lost its Biblical definition and was replaced by a secular definition. Religious experience came in the place of truth and so church services changed into worship services, with the stress on worship, but emptied of Biblical content and filled with hype. Preaching was replaced by testimonies and God’s word was withdrawn. And so the church dies.
It is time to recover our Biblical roots. Life is built on true teaching. Every part of God’s word is necessary for us to grow in the knowledge of God and His will and way, for that guides our thinking, our acting, our loving and hating.
Once we lose the knowledge of God and His word we are lost (Hosea 4:1b,6a).
Once we give up the church as unnecessary, or choose a church on the basis of personal preference, we are falling away from God and the Biblical faith. Only membership of the body of Christ which maintains the true Biblical teaching as a basis for its actions is a safe place for you and your family to be, for that is where God gathers His people.
Rev John Kroeze