Church is essential.
For the last year, that short slogan (and the accompanying social media hashtag) has served as a rallying cry for religious freedom in the face of tyrannical government overreach. We can debate the legitimacy and necessity of the lockdowns some other time. The simple fact is that churches did—and in some places, still do—receive inordinate restrictions and reprisals from governing authorities.
As those restrictions are beginning to loosen and life is returning to something like normal, God’s people must not lose sight of the church’s essential nature. Not merely as a check against future tyranny and religious persecution, but as a reminder to the church itself. Too many believers seem to have forgotten that church is essential for them, too.
During the lockdowns, many churchgoers have gotten into the habit of not going to church. I’ll admit it was convenient—in those weeks when Grace Community Church was closed—to sleep in each Sunday, rolling out of bed and onto the couch in time to watch the livestreamed service. But I’m grateful it was only a matter of weeks, and that the pattern did not have time to become a habit.
Others have been apart from their local church bodies for significantly longer, whether by force or by choice. I fear many—including some from my own congregation—have grown accustomed to livestream services and flat-screen pastors, without considering everything else they’re missing by staying home. They don’t realize—or perhaps, don’t care—that they’re forfeiting the primary means of accountability, discipleship, and discipline, along with the primary place to use and refine their spiritual gifts. They’re denying themselves the best opportunities to serve and grow with other believers, and the encouragement and sharpening that we find only in the body of Christ. Ultimately, and most importantly, it’s an issue of obedience.
It’s those brothers and sisters we need to call back into our midst. We need to encourage and exhort them not to forsake the fellowship of God’s people, and to avail themselves of the necessary, irreplaceable features and functions that only the local body of believers can provide. In short, we need to remind them that church is essential.
To that end, in the days ahead we’re going to revisit some helpful posts from John MacArthur’s blog series, Your Local Church and Why It Matters. It’s our hope that these articles will deepen and sweeten your love for and commitment to your local church, and help you call others back into faithful fellowship with the body of Christ.