Do Christians Really Need Church?
“I like Jesus, but I don’t like the church,” is what I used to say. “I’m a Christian, but my relationship with Jesus is personal.” Back when I was in high school and college, I was heavily into the Christian rock scene. many bands I looked up to were saying the statements above and I was echoing them because I thought they were cool. It turns out that they didn’t really understand Jesus and neither did I.
The church can be a kind of crazy place if you think about it. We are a bunch of imperfect people meeting together to worship a perfect and holy God. With this many people in one place trying to follow Jesus we are bound to get on each others nerves at times and maybe even offend each other. We are still sinners trying to look more like Jesus. Sometimes it may seem much easier to follow Jesus on our own and say, “Forget church!"
This question isn’t new, but it’s important. We may think the church is full of religious hypocrites and we really don’t want any part of of that. We may have been hurt by people in the church in the past and so we’re ready for it to be just us and Jesus. But we have to ask the question, “Do I really need church?”
First, it’s important for us to talk about what the church is or who the church is. The church is a group of people who have been saved by Jesus who gather together each Sunday to worship the Lord.
That’s a simple definition. We could add to it, but at its essence, that’s the church. We can talk about the global church, which is every Christian who is living or has ever lived or we can talk about the local church, which finds its expression in the small gatherings that happen around your town every Sunday.
When asking if we really need the church, we are talking about the local body of believers that gather together each week. This is the body where you can know others and be known, serve others and be served, and you honor the Lord by worshipping Him every Lord’s Day. If you’re a Christian, you’re a part of the global church automatically, but it is your choice to be a part of a local church.
I could tell you a bunch of reasons why you need the church and the church needs you, but I want to touch here on what I think is the best reason and the only reason you should need. The argument is found in an unlikely place. Paul is writing a letter to the Ephesian church and in this section of the letter, he is instructing husbands on how they should love their wives.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” - Ephesians 5:25-27
Strangely, we find the reason for why we need the church in instructions about marriage. I would argue that husbands and wives really can’t understand how to properly love each other until they understand Jesus and the Church. It is in the extremity of Jesus’ sacrifice that we see true love. It’s in the laying down of His life and total surrender that we see love, humility, and service.
I love my wife with everything I have and there is nothing I wouldn’t do for her. I always want the best for her and many times I try and give up my own way to help her have hers. This is what a good husband should do. I’d go as far as to say that if you don’t like Rachel, you might as well not like me. There is not a human on this planet that I love more than her. But I have learned to love her in this way, by understanding how much Jesus loves the church. When Paul says for husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her—I have to pause and focus on what Jesus did and on what that looks like. I have to understand how Jesus loved me before I can understand how I am supposed to love Rachel.
The church is described multiple times in the Bible as the bride of Christ. Jesus loved the church so much that He gave His life to save it. The Bible describes marriage as two becoming one and marriage is a picture of Jesus and the church. So it can’t even be possible to like Jesus, but not church. You can’t separate them. It would be like you saying I like Cam, but I don’t really like Rachel. If you don’t like my bride then you don’t like me—period. Because of my love for my bride, I have laid down my life. Because of Jesus’ love for the church, He laid down His life. He gave everything. If we treasure Him, we will treasure His bride.