Here’s a question for you: Do you need to attend church to be a Christian? What about being a member of a church? Is that necessary for a believer to grow and mature as God intends?
To hear many Christians talk—and this would probably be the opinion of many more if you could read their thoughts—the idea of being a vital, connected member of a church seems strange, unnecessary, maybe even a little antiquated. After all, if the goal is to grow as a Christian—to learn more about God, to understand and act out our faith more consistently—why should we think the church is so important? The best Bible teachers on the planet podcast their preaching; there are energetic parachurch organizations where a Christian can serve well; and a small group meeting in a home provides excellent opportunity for fellowship. Really, when you get right down to it, what good is a hidebound, outdated thing like the church? And why should I be a part of one?
The answer, to put it simply, is that the church isn’t just an invention of Christians who were trying to fulfill certain needs—fellowship, teaching, and so on. It’s much more than that. In fact, the Bible seems to hold the local church out as a unique organization, one unlike any parachurch organization, any other ministry, or any other institution in the world. It is, by Jesus’s own royal prerogative, the embassy of the kingdom of heaven to this rebellious world. This reality is mostly lost on Christians today, and yet that’s essentially how the Bible describes it.