Statistical studies imply that church attendance is trending downward in the United States. While many still attend church, they do not do so as regularly as earlier generations did. For many, it seems that church is unimportant or optional for their spiritual growth in Christ. The following are three good reasons that we should consider the local church vital for our spiritual growth.
Local churches are the body of Christ. I know that this applies to the universal church as well, but the local church is where it works out in practice. Just as a finger will not function and be healthy unless attached to the body, so are we as individual believers unless connected to a local body of believers.
I don’t have everything within me that I need to grow to my full potential in Christ. The preceding statement goes against the individualism that we value in our culture and that many Christians assume. More than once, I have heard someone say something similar to this: “I have the Bible and the Holy Spirit. God can show me all I need without my going to church.” True, He could, but according to His Word, He has chosen not to do so. Rather, He uses the collected spiritual gifts found in the individuals of the church to bless me and to help me grow. I hear those who have gifts of teaching explain the Bible to me. I am strengthened by those surrounding me who use their gifts of compassion, service, giving, administration, and faith in ways that bless me. Just as important, I use the spiritual gifts that I have to bless others. Alone, I don’t have those gifts nor that opportunity to bless others. It is not spiritual, but arrogant to assume that I don’t need the church to grow spiritually.
Third, I am blessed and helped by the corporate prayer of the church. Jesus said, where two or three are gathered in His name, He is there. Paul and Barnabus were sent out as missionaries as a result of church leaders praying and fasting. In answers to the prayers of the church, the Apostle Peter was freed from prison. And when God doesn’t deliver us from hardship, He answers the prayers of His people to sustain us and strengthen us.
These are just a few reasons, but they are compelling ones. If you like, you may share others in the comments. We have been blessed to be part of loving and supportive church, the First Baptist Church of Milton, Florida, which celebrated its 170th anniversary this past weekend. If you claim to be a follower of Christ, you need to find a church that teaches the Word of God and has a congregation that uses its gifts to bless one another and their community.