If Church Isn’t Necessary, Let’s Quit.

Here’s a proposition for the new year. I propose that if church isn’t necessary, we quit. I mean it. If it’s not necessary let’s cancel all of our services, board up the windows, lock the doors, and send everyone on their merry way. Sure, Christians have been gathering together to hear the Word read and preached, to sing with grace in their hearts, and observe the sacraments for over two thousand years. But if it’s not necessary let’s be the first generation to finally end the practice. Let’s silence the pulpit, close up the song books, dry up the baptismal waters, and put away the bread and wine. If church isn’t necessary, let’s quit.

Why? Because I’m convinced if it’s not necessary it’s too difficult and not worth my time. Listening to sermons is hard and it’s not really my learning style. So, let’s quit. Singing is outdated and the thought of someone hearing me slightly off key or out of tune is unbearable. Let’s quit. Praying together is boring and I’m too easily distracted. Let’s quit. I have my own friends and family and people at church can be hard to get along with. Let’s quit. It’s also too time consuming. Saturday nights are too fun and I could function better on Monday if I could get a couple extra hours of sleep. Let’s quit. Besides, my schedule is too demanding with my weekly workload, studying and homework, sports games, and an unending shopping list. Let’s quit. And, to be honest, there’s many times I don’t feel like going. It’s all hustle and bustle from the moment the alarm goes off to getting the kids ready and into the car. So, let’s quit! I really am serious. That’s my proposal for the new year. If church isn’t absolutely necessary, let’s quit.

But is that really an option? Well, no it’s not. Let me explain. There’s a lot of confusion today as to what the “church” is. Often people will say the church is a body to which every believer belongs. That is true. The body metaphor was one of the Apostle Paul’s favorite pictures of the church: “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27, see also Romans 12:4-5). But the church isn’t simply some undefined or invisible body. Rather, according to the Bible, it has a visible and outward organization. It has rules (1 Timothy 2:8-15, 1 Corinthians 11-14, and Titus 2), it has leadership (Matthew 16:19, Acts 6:1-7, 14:23, Ephesians 4:11, Hebrews 13:17), it has recognized preachers (Romans 10:15, 1 Timothy 5:17), it has a defined membership (Acts 2:41, Romans 16:3-16), it needs to compensate its teachers (1 Timothy 5:18), and it has discipline for those who need correction (Matthew 18:15-20, 1 Corinthians 5:1-12). None of that would be possible if the church was only an invisible body and not also an organization.

And it was to this organized or visible church that Jesus gave the ministry of gathering and perfecting the saints. He said to his Apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Later, the Apostle Paul would also write: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13). If I can put it this way, this visible church is the seedbed in which we are planted, nourished, rooted, protected, and grown. You cannot flourish without the church. It’s for this reason that the earliest Christians were wholly committed to this church as though their spiritual lives depended on it (see Acts 2:42, 47). It’s for this reason that Cyprian said: “He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the church for his mother.” And it’s for this reason the Westminster Confession of Faith rightly says: “[Outside of the visible church] there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.” To neglect it, then, is to neglect the very means the Holy Spirit uses to gather and perfect his people.

Have we outgrown the need? I don’t think so. The church is necessary. Preaching is necessary (Romans 10:14-17 and 1 Timothy 4:13), singing Psalms is necessary (Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16), discipleship and discipline are necessary (Matthew 28:16-20, 1 Corinthians 5:4-5), public prayer is necessary (1 Timothy 2:1-2), evangelism is necessary (Mark 16:15), and fellowship is necessary (Acts 2:42-47). The ministry of Word and sacrament is not a mere convention of human will and expediency, it is absolutely necessary. So I have another proposal. If the church is necessary, let’s not quit. Let’s devote and commit ourselves to it in the coming year for our good and God’s glory. As the author of Hebrews wrote: “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, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

14 Comments

  1. Debbie January 3, 2017 at 8:50 am #

    Amen!

  2. blund January 3, 2017 at 11:17 pm #

    And William Ames said that there are greater blessings of God’s presence only through church.
    http://resolved.tumblr.com/post/155347523285/since-the-ordinances-of-christ-always-have-gods

    Great article. I love this author…

  3. Rich January 4, 2017 at 7:35 pm #

    As I see it, one is faced with a “belling the cat” problem here. If you see what Christianity turned into, it turned into a bunch of products you buy in a marketplace, that can afford you the ability to not ever have to meet anyone. Just get your sermons, and do what you can. But, nevermind meeting anyone. A ministry is a TV. You have the professionals who rise to the top and are paid well, and if Christianity is just listening to sermons, and faith, all that matters is to believe right and receive. Get your daily merchandise, and the only giving that matters is money.

    And it doesn’t matter how much scripture one quotes on what should be done, if there isn’t a practical way to do it, then all that is pointless. Hey, we can meet… over social media, and you get to filter those you like, and post to their wall. Just make that sacramental and you are all set

    • Kyle Borg January 4, 2017 at 7:49 pm #

      Rich,
      Thanks for stopping by. Interesting comment, but I’m not sure how true to reality it is. Surely not all of Christianity has turned into what you describe here. There are many churches laboring faithfully, albeit anonymously.
      Blessings!
      Kyle

  4. RCP January 6, 2017 at 12:23 pm #

    Necessary for what?

    • Kyle Borg January 6, 2017 at 1:33 pm #

      Hey RCP,

      Thanks for the comment. As the article says: “If I can put it this way, this visible church is the seedbed in which we are planted, nourished, rooted, protected, and grown. You cannot flourish without the church.”

      Cheers!

      • RCP January 6, 2017 at 1:49 pm #

        Thanks Kyle! I think that it would have been helpful for that to be made clear in the first paragraph.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. A visit to the New Doctor. – This World and One More. - January 3, 2017

    […] Gentle Reformation: http://gentlereformation.com/2017/01/03/if-church-isnt-necessary-quit/ […]

  2. If Church Isn’t Necessary, Let’s Quit | A disciple's study - January 4, 2017

    […] Read the rest: http://gentlereformation.com/2017/01/03/if-church-isnt-necessary-quit/ […]

  3. A La Carte (January 4) - January 5, 2017

    […] If Church Isn’t Necessary, Let’s Quit […]

  4. If Church Isn’t Necessary, Let’s Quit - The Aquila Report - January 6, 2017

    […] Read More […]

  5. If Church Isn’t Necessary, Let’s Quit - - January 6, 2017

    […] Read More […]

  6. If Church Isn’t Necessary, Let’s Quit - January 6, 2017

    […] Read More […]

  7. Links I Like, Vol. 38 - January 7, 2017

    […] Church is hard. Growing up a pastor’s kid, going to church just becomes part of your DNA. The question “What are you doing on Sunday?” isn’t even a legitimate question, which is both good and bad. Good in the sense that I’m consistent, but bad in the sense that church can become routine. And once the assembly of saved sinners becomes routine, then quit. Church is too hard for routine to overcome rejoicing. As soon as I slip into and focus more on the procedural aspects of Sunday services, I’d be better off sleeping in or spending my time elsewhere. There’s too much going on anyways. But these notions are absolutely false. To shake off the routine, we only need to remember why the church is absolutely necessary in the first place. I’ll let Kyle explain. continue reading→ […]

Leave a Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.