Meeting with a local congregation of the Lordís church is one of Lifeís greatest privileges. Within most congregations we find an ethnic, social, political, and economical divers group of people sharing a magnificent unity in their commitment to following the Lord Jesus Christ. This is part of the beauty in a body of Christians coming together to worship God Almighty. We not only honor God, but encourage each other simply by being there together in purpose.
It is with these thoughts in mind that I grieve in anyoneís decision to break fellowship with the local body of Christ. I would ask that such persons would study, think, and pray about some points I would like to share with them:
#1) God, through His word, assumes and implies that a believer will be part of a local congregation of the Lords church (1Cor 11:17-34). A body (church) can not function unless there is unity of operation among itís members. God never calls upon his children to be Lone Rangers, but to be unified with other believers as a fighting unit against the wiles of Satan (2Cor 10:3-6).
1Cr 1:10 = Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
1Cor 12:12-27 = 12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free--and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For in fact the body is not one member but many. 15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? 18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." 22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.
Eph 1:22-23 = 22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.
Eph 4:1-6, 11-16 = 1 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ-- 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
#2) The local congregation is the only place we can fulfill our spiritual needs and requirements: Fellowship, encouragement, accountability, prayers, benevolence, edification, communion, worship, motivation, giving, preaching, and many others.
Eph 4:1-5, 11-16 = See above
1 Jhn 1:7 = 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
Rms 12:3-13 = 3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. 9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
1Cr 16:1-2 (NASB) = 1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. 2 On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.
Heb 10:24-29 = 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. 26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?
RM 10:17 = So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
As far as being members of a problem laden church, we can look at the Corinthian church and even beyond to the seven churches addressed in Revelations Chapters 2 - 3. The Lord addressed these churches to get his will among all the Christians in their particular areas. Even in Sardis (3:1-6), the good were among the bad and encouraged to maintain their personal purity even among those in need of repentance. The Lord works through the local congregation. There is no record in the New Testament of a believer, or believers, rightfully leaving a congregation (apart from the common sense implication of separating from a blatantly apostate congregation. 2Cor 6:14, Eph 5:11).
#3) The Lord expects his disciples to be part of the local congregation under an Eldership:
Act 20:28 = Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
1Th 5:11-14 = 11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. 12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; 13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves. 14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
Tts 1:5 = For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:
Hbr 13:17 = Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
#4) If one or more members of a congregation have sinned against you or your family, then that issue needs to be addressed, NOT ran away from. Peopleís souls are at stake. God expects us to work these things out and we all have a responsibility to do our best to do so. This can not be done outside the church. We must follow Gods procedures or it is all in vain.
Mth 18:15 - 17 = 15 "Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.' 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.
Mth 5:22-24 = 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
1Jhn 2:9-11 = 9He that saith he is in the light and hateth his brother, is in the darkness even until now. 10He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is no occasion of stumbling in him. 11But he that hateth his brother is in the darkness, and walketh in the darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because the darkness hath blinded his eyes.
1Jhn 3:14-16 = We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not abideth in death. 15Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. 16Hereby know we love, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
These are a few major points. I pray they are enough to prick your heart into rethinking any ideas of leaving your local congregation, or, maybe even help lead you and your family back to the Lord's body. Basically it comes down to you asking yourself; What would Jesus have me do? Answer that in truth, and obey your Lord's will.
Michael J Sullivan (Jan 2004)