A few weeks ago I started to look at the Church. I started off by defining the Church:
"The Church–quite simply–is the Body of Christ. It is the fullness of all those that believe in and put their faith in Jesus Christ as their savior, meaning all such people for all time."
Just a quick note about the terminology that I am going to use in this post. I am differentiating between the Church and the church. When I use the term Church with a capital "C" I am referring to the overall Body of Christ as defined above. When I use church with a lower-case "c" I am referring to the organization of a local congregation or even larger denomination. This is to say that there is a Spiritual Church and an organizational church.
What is important to keep in mind is that we do not put ourselves into the Body of Christ; we do not put ourselves into the Church. It is God, through the work of the Holy Spirit that we are placed into the Church. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:13 being a part of the Church is not an option for us:
"For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit."
If we are placed into the global Church by God does that mean that we are required to be a part of a local congregation? In other words can someone be a Christian and not go to a church on a regular basis?
While there is no "church membership" requirement, I believe that Paul's full use of the body metaphor tells us something. I think that it means that Paul never envisioned individual Christians living apart from one another and not being an active member of a local church. The author of Hebrews echoes the same sentiment in 10:24-25:
"And let us consider how to stir one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."
I know that I am covering much of the same ground that I covered previously. But I think that it is essential to reiterate the fact that we are supposed to meet together as a local congregation and we are to function as a body. It can be very easy to condemn those that do not regularly attend church and to ignore when we are not functioning as a healthy body should. Quite simply this is due to the fact that it is much easier to see when someone is not physically in the building. It is much harder to see when there is a problem within the body.
When I start to get a headache and a sore throat I will often say that I am getting sick. In reality I am not getting sick; I am already sick. Once symptoms of an illness start to appear it means that the illness has already taken root.
When we meet together we are to encourage one another to love and good works. When these things aren't happening on a regular basis then we are seeing the early signs of an illness within the body. If left unchecked then the question of "Why do we need the church?" starts to take on a whole new meaning.