Things Christians Believe: The Importance of the Local Church
Too often today, “church” is a word that leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths. So many people have had bad church experiences that they often give up on the idea completely. A recent study conducted here in Brazil showed that young adults are leaving the church in record numbers. Has the institution outlived its usefulness? Is the church even relevant anymore?
The reality is, no matter where you visit in the world, The Christian church is still moving forward. In most communities, there is at least one, and often times multiple, thriving Christian communities that are having a positive influence on many people’s lives. The Church is still doing so much good all over the globe.
There are several reasons why the local church still has an important role in society. First of all, the church is the only visible expression of Jesus in the world today. The Apostle Paul made multiple references to the church as “the body of Christ.” Being connected to the church is, in a very real sense, being connected to Jesus. To see the Church in action, at least in its positive form, is to see God in action.
This thought of Christians being connected to each other is not popular for those that live in the independent-minded western world. Many Christians want to be free to come and go to church as they please. The idea of committing to a single church is hard for many people. If the church, however, is the body of Christ, then the only way that Jesus’ hands can touch the community is for the individual believers to unite together with one heart and vision.
A second reason why the local church is important is because that is where true life and salvation are found. The great Church Father Augustine said, “If God is my Father, the Church is my mother.” While it is possible to make a decision to follow Jesus outside of a church, it is very difficult to grow as a Christian apart from a community of faith. God never intended that we live the Christian life in isolation. We were always intended to be connected to other believers.
It is also important for Christians to learn what it really means to follow Jesus in the process of discipleship. Again, this can only be accomplished in the context of community. Jesus called twelve men to be His disciples. He invested His life in these men and they became the ones who literally changed the world with the message of the Gospel.
Being a part of a local church also provides a context for Christians to serve in. Jesus made it clear that He expected His followers to invest their time, talent, and treasure in His Kingdom. The local church is the physical expression of His Kingdom. Many churches are involved in reaching out and meeting real needs in their community. Some churches assist homeless shelters. Others have outreaches to single mothers in the community. Some churches have ministries that visit elderly shut-ins. Still other churches sponsor after school programs for children in their area.
Aside from these kinds of outreaches, there are also many other areas in which a person can serve in their local church. Most churches are volunteer driven. They might have a small paid staff, but also a number of volunteers that serve a few hours a week. These volunteers might include children and youth workers, musicians and singers, cleaners, cafe workers, and so many others.
Jesus told His disciples that people would know that they were His followers by how they loved one another. There is nothing more attractive than a vibrant, healthy church. People find their closest friends and often a husband or wife in their church. The Church exists to help people connect with God and with other people.
How has the local church made a difference in your life?
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