On the one hand the church does not need any defending. The church is the people of God made holy by God’s holiness. It is a people in relationship with the Trinity. A people called by the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
On the other hand, there seems to be a lot of conversation in popular Christian books and blogs about leaving the church. It seems that people question what the church is and what the church does. What is it that defines the church? Some question the idea of an organized church.
However, organized church is the example given to us in scripture. In the book of Acts as well as the epistles of the New Testament the church continually became more and more organized.
The church was not just scattered people, but communities of people who gathered together (ecclesia) to worship the Lord Jesus and to care for each other. They did certain things (i.e. love feasts, communion, songs, etc.). Moreover, the church came together on the Lord’s Day (that is Sunday). The very term church (ecclesia) was the word used for (secular) gatherings in the New Testament era.
The early church was not perfect. Each New Testament letter is written to a church (or churches) and they all address a problem within the church. The church in Corinth seems to have as many issues as the number of chapters in the letter of 1 Corinthians. Yet, Paul still addresses the letter to the church and to the people of God.
While popular authors question the validity of “church” today, one would wonder where there scriptural support comes from about leaving the church.
It seems to me that the idea of a “Christian” who does not attend/take part in a local church is a foreign concept to the scriptures. Can we name one example in the New Testament of a believer who did not attend/take part in a local church?
The New Testament metaphors of the church would suggest that one must attend/take part in a local church to be a follower of Christ. How is one considered the “Body of Christ” if they have no participation with the rest of the body? If the “Bride of Christ” represents the church, how can one be considered part of the “Bride” if they have no relation with the “rest” of the Bride?
The concept of a believer in Christ (a Christian) who does not attend/take part in a local church does not exist in the New Testament.
The church is a group of people who come together – not a few friends having a Bible study or praying together. The Biblical example of church is a group of people from different backgrounds and financial means who come together to worship Christ in an “orderly” and “Spirit-filled” way and to care physically and spiritually for each other.
Unfortunately, many church leaders of today and yesterday have failed to teach why the church is necessary and Biblical. The focus has been too much on the person and less the church (there is a balance that should be kept).
There is no wonder why people leave the church if no one knows why the church is necessary.
Hopefully, teachers and leaders of the church of today and tomorrow will begin to teach a proper understanding of the church represented in the New Testament.
The church is never a me, but a we. And that we exists in the gathering because of Christ our Lord.