Quote# 126488

I find it puzzling that this topic is still up for debate, yet the sentiments of many Western Christians is that you can love Jesus without loving the church. Verbose arguments abound on the church not being confined to a building – that all spaces are sacred and therefore, filled with divine presence. The well-worn argument that the church does not consist of the physical space you occupy while worshipping God, but instead the body of believers, contains just enough truth to lure readers to their inevitable conclusion:
Church attendance is optional. Serving the brethren, again, is optional. Loving the brethren? Still optional. Feeling guilty about not wanting to go to church? Don’t worry about it; that’s the fault of institutionalized religion.

They then do a follow up post called The Real Reason Evangelicals and Millennials [insert people group] are Leaving the Church, where again, they pander to what people want to hear. So long as you subject the Scriptures to tokenism and appeal to sentimentalism, people will eat it up. Soon enough they’ll be in the woods celebrating “communion” with Coca Cola and cookies.

I’m not denying that some churches simply aren’t churches per the definition of Scripture; what I am speaking against is the underwhelming opinion that you can somehow be part of the universal church and reject the local church, or that the local church is made up of you and your family on a Sunday morning as you lay in bed and reject communion with the saints and sitting under the proclamation of the Scriptures.

The reality is that the entire New Testament presupposes you are going to be part of an institutionalized, local church. People wish to delve into semantics and separate the location from the body of believers, but that isn’t the point of defining what the local church is. Yes, the building could be demolished overnight and the church would still exist – however, that local church still meets in time and space. That local church still has a designated structure made up of elders, teachers, deacons, evangelists, etc., for the edification of the whole man until the saints reach unity in the faith and the knowledge of Christ (Eph. 4:11-16). The church is made up of living stones that is being built up as a spiritual house into a holy priesthood for service to Christ (1 Pt. 2:5) and they are members of one another (Rom. 12:5; Eph. 4:25, 1 Cor. 12:12-27), and are present within a local community.
Even still, the author of Hebrews indicates that we are to not forsake gathering with God’s people because of the hope we have in Christ, so that we might encourage one another to perseverance in the faith (Heb. 10:19-25). The idea being presented is that the confidence we have to enter the presence of God through Christ, being able to hold to the hope we profess without wavering, and drawing near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance, is directly related to the notion that we are intimately connected to this local body.

What’s more than all of this is that a local church is not a church without some semblance of this God-given functionality and structure. A group of three people without the headship of elders and teachers is not the church. They are part of the global church – but they are not a substitute for the local church. There are always exceptions to the rule, yet the exception does not prove the rule; special provisions do not institute a normative ecclesiology. The text never presupposes the rugged individualism indicative of American Evangelicalism.

We know Paul was prohibited from communing with the saints whilst in chains. We also know that many churches are confined to secret rendezvous, have gone without official teachers/elders for a period, etc. No one is speaking of things literally barring another from being able to be among the saints and sit under the Word, or a temporary, ecclesial detriment; it is the willful forsaking of the brethren and the eschewing of God’s good gifts.

While there are things worthy of introspection from the church – I don’t believe this to be one of them. There aren’t a host of reasons why people are fleeing from the church in groves. There aren’t many reasons why professing Christians are leaving the church. There may be healthy reasons why one leaves a particular local church, but when it comes to reasons why one leaves the church entirely, there’s really only one: they don’t love the church. Synonymously, they don’t love Christ.

The apostle John is about as straightforward as one can get in saying that the way children of God and children of the devil can be distinguished is that children of the devil are those who eschew righteousness and the love of the brethren (1 Jn. 3:10). This isn’t some strange new teaching – it is what they (and we) have heard from the beginning (v. 11-13). If that’s not clear enough, he then says that anyone who hates his brother remains in death and is a murderer (vv. 14-15).

Furthermore, he condemns mere tokenism toward brotherly love; one must demonstrate this love in action and truth (v. 18). Much like the author of Hebrews, John maintains that by these things we will not only have knowledge that we are children of God, but assurance of our salvation (vv. 19-20).

The modern notion that you can worship God just as much by yourself as you can within the confines of the church is patently false and anti-biblical. It flies in the face of the Scripture’s teaching on the importance of the body of Christ, the proper structure of the church, and the goodness of the spiritual gifts that God has bestowed for the benefit of His people.

I sense that if one were to have a conversation with the apostle John on this, it would go similarly:

Objector: But what if the church damaged me?
John: Go to church.
O: But what if people hurt me at one point?
J: Go to church.
O: But what if I feel like I connect more with God in nature than with people in the church?
J: Go to church.
O: But what if I…
J: [interjects] Are you dying?
O: No.
J: Are you imprisoned?
O: No…
J: Is there anything prohibiting you from going to church?
O: Well, I feel like…
J: [interjects again] You can’t love God without loving His people and loving His people means that you die to self, bear with one another in love, and obey the commands of Scripture for your personal and corporate edification, in order that God might be glorified. Go. To. Church.

While the church can often be a motley group, Christ has enduring patience with His bride. His death accomplished her redemption, yet we live in this eschatological tension wherein we still sin against one another. In the love of the brethren, sin can be properly dealt with through a biblical, disciplinary process, or simply in overlooking the offense of a brother or sister whose actions are not indicative of normal behavior. In similar character to our Savior, we must be willing to bear with one another, in love and patience, as we are all progressively sanctified. I understand deep wounds can be caused – yet the Scriptures give us no option to withhold forgiveness from an individual, or forsake the assembling of God’s people. Summarily stated, loving God is inseparable from loving those within the household of faith. You cannot demonstrate a love for the brethren by abdicating from fellowship with and participation in service to one another.

Grayson Gilbert, Patheos 14 Comments [4/20/2017 1:31:05 AM]
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The Angry Dybbuk

1) Matthew 18:20

2) While it's good for people to gather under elders who are moderate in temperament and habit, it's a mistake to remain with people who are extreme. It's also a mistake to assume someone who attends a megachurch, for example, is getting any more individual attention or instruction than someone who spends Sunday watching that same garish crap on television. (People can use their time more productively than that by sleeping.)

3) You should pay more attention to why people are leaving before trying to construct arguments about how they must be wrong. And no, there isn't anywhere It isn't. (Isaiah 29:15)

I wonder what it says about you that creatures like me know the Bible as well or better? Meh; it's probably nothing, right?

4/20/2017 1:42:18 AM


"You're not a real Christian if you don't _______" is one of the Church's classic scare tactics. I don't think they've realized that, in modern society, a lot of folks will just leave rather than put up with whatever narcissistic ass has set himself up as God in his church.

Also, reeeeeally tired of how Christians only apply "judge not" to others who's judgement they already agree with.

4/20/2017 1:45:28 AM


"While the church can often be a motley group"

Or Motley Crue?

4/20/2017 2:43:52 AM


".........and if you don't go to church how can we relieve you of your money?"

4/20/2017 4:14:19 AM

You do realize that church likely wouldn't be something Jesus would totally support and more over I believe it is in Matthew he says that where two believers meet there is a church. However your type of church likely became political and it is closer to Pharisees than it is to Christianity

4/20/2017 5:11:25 AM


Interesting, because I think I got a better grasp of my faith when I got away from church. My cousin still occasionally suggests I go (his being a minister, it's to be expected), but isn't pushy about it as long as there's still faith. Try not being pushy and demanding.

4/20/2017 5:52:44 AM

Doubting Thomas

Objector: But what if the church damaged me?
John: Go to church.
O: But what if people hurt me at one point?
J: Go to church.

Yeah, you're not making a good argument to people to get them in the pews on Sunday morning. This is nothing more than pure authoritarianism. People aren't going to just accept "Go to church" if they've been treated poorly by the other people there, nor are they likely to accept "my way or the highway," especially when the highway isn't an option. Not to mention that in the modern world your anachronistic belief system has a lot of explaining to do as to why it's relevant and necessary.

But yeah, just keep assuming that people who are leaving your church in droves are the ones who are necessarily wrong instead of finding out why they're leaving, and then wonder why the collection plate gets skimpier every week.

4/20/2017 6:23:46 AM


It's the Cathar Heresy all over again I tell ya.

4/20/2017 6:25:37 AM

Demon Duck of Doom

"Summarily stated, loving God is inseparable from loving those within the household of faith. "

Good thing I'm barely capable of love anyways.

4/20/2017 8:37:20 AM

Shepard Solus

"Church is obviously mandatory. That's why Jesus never said it was a requirement; it's so obvious that even that pedant thought it went without saying. Obviously. Now shut up and put the money on the fucking plate."

4/20/2017 12:20:47 PM

Hu's On First

Tell that to the Desert Fathers.

4/20/2017 4:01:35 PM


Gospel of Matthew:

6:5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

6:6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

6:7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

6:8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

4/20/2017 5:29:07 PM

Pink Jackboots

>Go to church.

"STFU" Dr. Denis Leary

4/21/2017 10:08:22 AM


There was a time when, if you didn't go to church and support it, they'd come after you to force you or take everything you own.

Now they gotta plead with you, threaten 'shunning'. Still they suggest, you can't escape the church, you must must must stay, regardless of how evil corrupt and criminal, you must stay.

4/21/2017 1:32:05 PM

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