When an individual comes to genuine faith in Jesus Christ, they are included in the universal church. But many who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ remain uncommitted to the local, visible church. They would claim a generic love for other believers but have remained casual and uncommitted toward real believers in real time. For many, the local church is clearly optional. But the biblical pattern is different:
- Individuals believed, were baptized and were added to the local church (Acts 2:41, 47; 4:4; 5:14; 11:24). People were not just spiritually included in the mystical universal church. They were numbered on the rolls of the local, visible church.
- God loves the local church. The apostle Paul charged the elders of the church in Ephesus to care for the church which he “obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Jesus died for that local congregation in Ephesus. Why would we marginalize something that was so important to Jesus?
- The early church maintained a clear sense of who was in and who was out. The apostle Paul instructed the local church to put an unrepentant man “out of their fellowship” (1 Corinthians 5:2). Clearly the church kept track of insiders and outsiders. If you are not able to be put out of the church, you have to question whether you are actually in the church.
- Orderly decision-making assumes a formally identified congregation (Acts 6:1-2; 2 Corinthians 2:6).
- Joining a church will not save anyone. But the church does have some role in validating those who are truly saved and marking them out as the visible people of God (Matthew 18:15-20; John 20:19-23).
Whose team are you on? Have you put on the uniform? What’s holding you back from formally committing and aligning yourself with the visible people of God?
Photo Credit: https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Couple_holding_hands_in_Kauai_(7635480262).jpg