We were created by God to worship Him and to enjoy fellowship, first, with Him, and then with each other. Even in the earthly paradise called Eden, God said it was not good for man to be alone. How much more must we need each other in this fallen, evil world? Many today, in our culture of self-absorption, feel that “church” doesn’t live up their perceived needs or expectations. We often hear, “I don’t need a building, or other people. I just need to be alone with God.” But the very root word of church, ecclesia, means those who are called out of the world to worship God as His “chosen people.”
The true Church is not a building, but is called in the New Testament the Body of Christ, with Jesus as the Head and God’s redeemed children as hands, feet, eyes, etc. This is the Church worldwide, through all the ages. No body functions at its best without all of its parts; therefore, every Christian is an essential part of the Church, and believers are expected to gather together in local groups wherever they live, and to bring at least some of that gathering to the sick or infirm so that they too can participate in corporate worship.
“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” Hebrews 10:24-25
Members give and receive teaching and practical help, especially to the needy and the poor. We bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), including loving accountability to each other in matters of behaviour and attitude. Matthew 18:15-17 indicates to us how seriously Jesus takes our obedience to local church authority.
From the earliest meetings of believers, recorded in the Book of Acts and the pastoral letters of the New Testament, there were problems of discipline, personal squabbles, infighting over questions of doctrine—everything we see in churches today. Nevertheless, the fact is that Christ loves His Church. If we belong to Him, we cannot reject or ignore the Body of His redeemed for whom He died, but must give ourselves to building it up, wherever God has placed us in local fellowship. If we love Him, we will be eager to obey Him:
“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” Hebrews 13:15-16