A friend of mine from my former ministry world was married to a great gal who I enjoyed highly. On the outside they seemed like a loving God fearing couple who enjoyed serving in ministry together. Not long after they left their ministry "jobs" they stopped attending church all together. They were looking to do something more "organic" and felt the structured formality of the "church" was a hindrance to real ministry.
A few years after that my friend decided he just wasn't interested in marriage anymore and since he knew God just wanted him to be happy he called it quits on his wife and young child. A few of us went to confront him about it and it was the most odd conversation I remember ever having with someone. He had always had some fringe theological beliefs but his new positions were completely unhinged from scripture. When we asked him what Christian men he was involved with who he would allow to speak into his life he claimed he didn't need it because he had the Holy Spirit....which was continuing to confirm for him everything he wanted to do anyways....
Today he refuses to talk to any Christians, and not even his own parents, because everyone in his life stood up against his crazy and self-serving viewpoints. He wanted to define Christianity through the lens of himself and was completely unwilling to be challenged on any of his viewpoints.
I read a great quote by Timothy Keller the other day. "If your god never disagrees with you, you might just be worshiping an idealized version of yourself."
Today we worship ourselves, rarely do we worship the one true Living Creator God of all the Universe. Who became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ and who came to Earth, died on the cross, and rose again. What is the most obvious way we show that we are worshipping self?
We leave the Church.
I don't mean you stopped attending the local First Liberty Baptist Methodist Living Water Tabernacle that your grandma went to. I mean we have decided that we get to decide by ourselves what Christianity looks like and we don't want anyone getting in the way of interpreting God as high fiving us as we leave our wives and kids.....
Our favorite misquoted Bible Passage to support this travesty is Matthew 18:20, "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
See?!?!? I don't need a Church, just 2 of us and "BOOOM!!" Church!!
Yay proof texting.
As a reminder....Read more than a single sentence to understand the Bible.
What is the full context of Matthew 18's claim of "2 or 3"? It is about dealing with sin WITHIN the Church. First you go privately, then you go with a few friends, then you go get the CHURCH. Did you catch that? This whole passage is written in the assumption that an individual is actively involved in their local Church.
I am not going to bore you with details here...But read for yourself. The entirety of the New Testament is written in the context of believers tightly woven into the life of a local Church. The assumption is that a Christian is WITHIN the local Church. And what is the local church tasked with? Holding firm to the faith, teaching truth, correcting sin, supporting their members, preaching the Gospel.
Are many of the commands written to the Church able to be appropriately translated into the lives of individuals? Of course. But they are not distinctly separate from the community of believers. There is no Biblical precedence for autonomous individuals creating their own version of Christianity outside of the life of the local body.
So what good is the Church?
First: Jesus established the Church and his disciples(apostles) established local churches to be the functioning and visible picture of the Universal Church. The New Testament is written in the context of this community. So before you talk about anything else, we have to recognize that being grafted into a local body of believers is the expected normal state of being for a Christian.
Second: What about my friend I told you about? The Church has a role in our lives to stand up for truth and call us to the carpet when we sin. And not just private sin, but sin that harms others. If we separate ourselves from the body, who will support you and call you out on your bologna? I can theorize why he left the church....its quite simple really...he wanted to do what HE wanted to do, and didn't want anyone to call him out.
The Church is the central and visible practice of the Christian life. Sitting alone on a mountain top contemplating deep theological thoughts is not why Christ died for you.
We like to think our individualism makes us so unique. Instead, we are often just selfish and think we are better than others