Why Do I Need to Be Part of a Local Church?

God’s statement that man should not be alone (Gen 2:18) is not only applicable to marriage. A desire for community was implanted within us by the Creator and is also part of His design for the new creation in Christ – we have come into a “fellowship” (1Co 1:9). You may often have heard that there are privileges and responsibilities associated with local assembly fellowship. But what if there were a way to obtain those privileges without taking on the responsibilities? Wouldn’t that be great? Not so much, no. Experiencing community requires commitment. There is a growing segment of the Christian Church that is contenting itself with being unattached to a local church, but these beloved believers are selling themselves short, not only of their biblical responsibilities but also of their biblical privileges. As with everything that God has designed, local church fellowship is for our blessing. If I am not an active participant in the fellowship of a local assembly of believers, I am missing out on the goodness of Christian discipleship that God has provided for me as a member of Christ’s body.

Expressing the Truth of One Body in Christ

All Christians everywhere are part of the singular body of Christ (cf. 1Co 12:12-13). This evidently doesn’t mean that every Christian in a given locality is part of the same local church – they may not even know each other. But the distinctiveness between the two entities shouldn’t make us think there is no connection between them; 1 Corinthians 12 makes this crystal clear. In an epistle focused upon the Lordship of Christ in a local assembly, Paul applies the truth of the one body of Christ to local assembly life and its variety of ministries. After teaching about the one body of Christ (vv12-13) and the analogy of the human body (vv14-26), he says, “Now you are Christ’s body” (v27 NET, cf. JND). In other words, the local church is to live out this truth of body unity.  God has “called [us] into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1Co 1:9),[1] so that we may worship and serve together in a corporate expression of that fellowship. God never intended that we would make our Christian pilgrimage alone. The local church is explicitly designed to be an experience of Christian community. Ephesians and Colossians are expositions of the glorious truth of the one body in Christ, but those letters were originally written to local churches because that is God’s design for where the teaching of those letters is to be expressed. The body metaphor teaches us why we should be part of a local church; Scripture doesn’t envision detached members of the body.

A Body Represents Unity

A local church isn’t merely something you attend, but a people to whom you commit. If a marriage is going to be good – an experience of true oneness – there needs to be love, respect, patience and commitment. A local church is like a marriage. And while a marriage is two becoming one, a local church is many living as one (cf. Php 1:27). It is a oneness forged out of “many-ness.” The metaphor of the church is not a toe or an elbow, but a body. An individual Christian is not at liberty to just do their own thing (cf. 1Co 12:15), or to proclaim their commitment to Christ by baptizing themselves and taking the Lord’s Supper on their own in their bedroom. God’s pattern for us is a corporate oneness, a mutual commitment to a community of God’s people under the Lordship of Christ.

A Body Represents Diversity

In the human body, every member has a different role to fulfill. This is one of the Spirit’s main points of application to the church in 1 Corinthians 12. And according to that same epistle, the way for us to discover and fulfill our individual role in the body of Christ is through a real and close fellowship with the body. That is what the local church is for; it is a God-designed opportunity to serve and edify one another with our diverse abilities and callings. An unattached foot is of little help both to a body or itself; it cannot fulfill its purpose that way. Likewise, a believer who is not part of a local church is not fulfilling the purpose that the Spirit has for him. Local assemblies need the diverse service that the individual members of Christ’s body provide. And the individual members need the body.

A Body Represents Interdependency

We should be part of a local church to express our oneness in Christ with likeminded Christian brothers and sisters. We should be part of a local church because it is a God-ordained fellowship in which we are to serve the Lord and His people. And we should be part of a local church for our own spiritual protection and care. A local assembly is not only for us to serve others – we need others’ support. In the body metaphor, “if one member suffers, all suffer together” (1Co 12:26). Being independent, freewheeling, anonymous disciples is not for our benefit; we need the accountability that a healthy church fellowship provides. The individualistic nature of our culture fosters a thinking that we can grow spiritually apart from the trappings of a stodgy old church. Virtual connectivity and access to a vast amount of teaching via the internet – neither of which is automatically evil – magnifies this. But the geographically distant preacher can’t care for you like a local brother or sister with a shepherd heart who knows you and loves you. And downloading sermons doesn’t equate to downloading community.

In the dispensation of the Church, God’s will for His people is to experience the community of a local church. And experiencing community requires commitment. Don’t settle for being a name in a directory – be a true partner in the fellowship.

[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the ESV unless otherwise noted.