The BIBLE says it is.
Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:23 that, “Christ is the head of the church.” The church is “his body,” and that He, Himself is its Savior.” He also said the church “submits to Christ” and He “loved the church and gave himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27).
JESUS said the church is important, too!
In Matthew 25, when Jesus spoke of the end times and His return, He used the metaphor of a bridegroom referring to Himself. Revelation 19 talks about the “marriage supper of the Lamb” (vs. 9). Two verses earlier in verse 7, it says, “Let us rejoice and exult and give Him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made herself ready.” The Bride is His church.
Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The final invitation extended in the book of Revelation says, “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Revelation 22:17).
Some will say, “I’m a part of the church, just not one with buildings, budgets and Bible studies.” They’re claiming to be a part of the universal church, not a local church. The problem with a universal church is there’s no personal commitment. There’s no “iron sharpening iron.” It’s basically a do-it-yourself project with no timelines or deadlines. No standards, no expectations, no tasks to perform, no ministry to oversee, no place to serve, no one to help, encourage or bless, no lives to impact. There’s no giving since you’re basically giving to yourself — which is keeping, otherwise known as selfishness. There’s certainly no sacrifice because there’s no one to call you to it and no reason for you to do it. There are no messes to clean up, no conflicts to solve, no broken hearts to mend. Comfort is the order of the day (and night). Courage is not needed. And there’s no need to put on the armor of God, because there are no battles to face in the universal, invisible church.
Satan doesn’t bother with bathrobe battalions who never make it past their own bedrooms. Bedside Baptist might be among the fastest growing churches in America, but it’s not a REAL church. And it’s not full of saints (Ephesians 4:12). It’s a completely disconnected group of ain’ts — “having a form of godliness but denying its power” and Paul warned, “Have nothing to do with such people” (2 Timothy 3:5).
Tony Evans, in his excellent book, God’s Glorious Church said, “Your church is nothing less than a little piece of heaven, here on earth. When Jesus said, ‘Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,’ He was referring to the church as the place where that happens – a place where love rules. And the Lord reigns. In other words, the church is the most important spiritual institution ever created. Nothing is more important than understanding it. Nothing is more crucial that participating in it.” 1
John MacArthur said, “In Acts 2 verse 41 where the church is born it says,’So then, those who had received his words …the words of Peter …as he preached, were baptized.’ Of course, that was obvious, inevitable. Immediately, they would be baptized. ‘And there were added that day about 3,000 souls.’ Added to what? Added to the others. Who were the others? Well, at least 120 that gathered in the upper room would be on the list. And they must have had somebody who could take the names of these people who were baptized and they were all added to the list. And then, in verse 47, ’The Lord kept adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.’ And the church was meeting day in and day out, celebrating its life and its joy in the Messiah. And the Lord was, by the power of the Holy Spirit, converting many and they were being added to the church.” 2
Luke says, “They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers … and day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47). (For more on the importance of being a viable part of a local church CLICK HERE.)
Years ago, while pastoring in Florida, I had a man tell me he didn’t need to be a part of a “local” church. He was a member of the “invisible” church. He informed me that he and Jesus were fine with that. I asked him, “So when you get sick do you have an invisible pastor come and pray for you? When you get sick, do you go to an invisible doctor or an invisible hospital? Do you take invisible medicine?” He said to me, “That’s ridiculous. Of course not.” I went on to ask him if he banked at an invisible bank, drove an invisible car, ate invisible food, and did people pay him with invisible money when he did work for them. He said, “Of course not. That’s absurd.” I told him, "it’s equally ridiculous for you to say you’re not part of a local, physical church, but rather, you’re a part of the invisible church. And it’s absurd for you to say Jesus is fine with that.” Surprisingly, the conversation ended.
Bedside Baptist might be among the fastest growing churches in America, but it’s not a REAL church.
Tony Evans said this about Matthew 16: “Jesus told Peter in verse 19 that He was giving the keys of the kingdom to the church. Keys speak of authority and access. When you have the keys, you have access to the building. What Jesus is saying is that the church, and only the church, has access to the kingdom of God and its power. In other words, only the church has access to the rule of God in history. Only the church has the authority to call down heaven to address issues on earth. Only the church can open the door of eternity to cause eternity to impinge on situations in time. Only the church has been given the keys, the authority, the power, and the access to operate heaven’s agenda in a hellish world. And since the spiritual precedes the physical, the church, operating properly, is the primary means of bringing spiritual solutions in history to the physical manifestations that plague humanity.” 3
YES! The Church Really Is That Important.
Bill Hybels said, “There is nothing like the local church when it’s working right. Its beauty is indescribable. Its power is breathtaking. Its potential is unlimited. It comforts the grieving and heals the broken in the context of community. It builds bridges to seekers and offers truth to the confused. It provides resources for those in need and opens its arms to the forgotten, the downtrodden, the disillusioned. It breaks the chains of addictions, frees the oppressed, and offers belonging to the marginalized of this world. Whatever the capacity for human suffering, the church has a greater capacity for healing and wholeness. Still to this day, the potential of the local church is almost more than I can grasp. No other organization on earth is like the church. Nothing even comes close.” 4
We need to be a part of a local church and do way more than attend. We need to be more than just consumers. Consumer Christianity, where you can believe whatever you want, come whenever you want, do whatever you want, give whatever you want, etc., is a man-made religion that exalts the flesh, comforts the carnal, ignores the Scriptures, grieves the Spirit, rejects God, betrays Jesus and sends people to hell.
Instead, we need to JUMP IN! to the local church and stay in! If we “love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength … ” (Mark 12:30)
… we’ll also love His Church – the REAL one!
© 2017. Barry L. Cameron
1 Tony Evans. God’s Glorious Church. Moody Publishers. Chicago, IL. 2003. Front cover.
2 John MacArthur. https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-130/commitment-to-the-church
3 Tony Evans. The Kingdom Agenda. Word Publishing. Waco. 1999. Pg. 242-243
4 Bill Hybels. Courageous Leadership. Zondervan. Grand Rapids, MI. 2002. Pg. 23
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Today, more than 8,000 people call Crossroads their church home. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.