Throughout America, believers are leaving the local church. Some say that the church is no longer relevant to their lives and they can live a Christian life without the church. George Barna Research, the Gallup Poll and Lifeway Research have all found various reasons why this is happening in our country.
The Bible says in Acts 2:42 (English Standard Version), "And they (the believers) devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."
The early New Testament believers thought it important to meet with other believers. Perhaps they did so because there were so few of them or they were living under persecution.
Could it be that Acts is not applicable to our lives today? I think not. The Bible says in Hebrews 10:23-25 (ESV), "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day approaching."
These verses are a command to those who are believers in Jesus Christ. Believers are to hold fast the confession of their hope and in doing so they are to not waver. Believers are to consider how they are to stir up other believers to love and good works.
How can you stir up another believer if you do not gather together with them? If believers are commanded to stir up other believers to love and good works, then do believers who are not engaged in such have little love?
Pastor Mark Dever of Capital Hill Baptist Church says, "Christian proclamation might make the gospel audible, but Christians together in local churches make the gospel visible. The church is the gospel made visible." If Dever is correct, then can we conclude that it makes sense for believers to be very careful to love the church?
Francis Schaeffer, the late American Evangelical theologian wrote, "So, we are to love all true Christian brothers in a way that the world may observe. This means showing love to our brother in the midst of our differences - great or small - loving our brothers when it costs us something, loving them under times of tremendous emotional tension, loving them in a way the world can see.
In short, we are to practice and exhibit the holiness of God and the love of God, for without this we grieve the Holy Spirit. Love and unity is the mark Christ gave to wear before the world. Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are indeed Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father.
Let us ponder these words and become a people who value and cherish the local church and if we have given up on the church, look again and think of the truth the Bible gives to us about the church.
• Pastor Ben Fleming is with Silver Hills Community Church.