I was recently asked about my time as an intern in Northern India, and the lessons I learned. I can say that the year of the internship has been a great blessing for me, in my walk with the Lord, and also for my life in ministry. During the year, God has brought me to various convictions through the preaching of the word, being together with my fellow believers, reading various books, and from my time being alone with God. One of those is my growing seriousness about the importance and love for Christ’s Church. I pray that you will be blessed by reading, as I am by writing, on how I have been convinced of these unchanging timeless truths.
IMPORTANCE OF THE LOCAL CHURCH
Before my internship, I have not had the experience of growing in a healthy local church. Though I had some knowledge about what a church is, yet, I did not have any tangible experience. Therefore, my love for the local church was shallow. But, through this internship, my understanding of the importance of the local church began to grow, as I was joined with a healthy local church.
One of the reasons I consider the crucial importance of the local church is that it is God’s “Plan A” to save sinners. As I was working in a para-church ministry, I used to believe that it’s one of the best platforms for reaching out to the lost. I praise God for faithful para-church ministries that He has used for the advancement of His Gospel and His kingdom on earth, but they are not a substitution for the local church. In fact, I believe that Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19-20, the commission to make disciples of all nations, was given primarily to His church. The local church is important because it is the powerhouse of Christ’s Great Commission.
The importance of the local church can also be seen in how the Bible speaks of the church as God’s instrument for building up His people in sanctification and in maturity in the faith. The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:25-26 teaches that Christ so loved His church that He gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the Word, to present her to Himself as glorious. How can I neglect that!? Being fed, we feed others. Growing, we help one another grow. Being built, we help to build one another. Mark Dever mentioned this in his book “Discipling.” He said, “following Christ, we help others follow Him.” The local church is important because it is God’s plan A for believers’ sanctification, growth, and maturity.
In Ephesians 3:8-13, Paul teaches to the believers in Ephesus on how the local church is God’s global display to reveal His manifold wisdom to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. Isn’t it amazing that God has included the gathering of a handful of saved-sinners, in the most remote region of the world, to display His manifold glorious wisdom? We cannot take the weight of this lightly. The local church is important because it is the display of God’s manifold wisdom and His glory to the world.
LOVE FOR THE LOCAL CHURCH
As mentioned earlier, I used to have a shallow love for the local church, as I did not understand much about the price which Christ has paid to redeem her. As I began to understand it, my love for the church grew. One of the many reasons why I love the local church is because Christ died for her. It is a community bought with the precious blood of Christ. How dare I neglect the community for whom Christ loved so much to die? How can I say I love Christ without loving His Bride for whom He came to save? That is just not possible! Christ’s love for His church demands our love for His church.
Moreover, my love for the local church grew as I began to understand and witness the wonderful picture of unity in diversity through the Gospel. There are different people from various backgrounds in the church where I did my internship, myself included. But the unity that exists among us through the gospel is so glorious! It is not normal in the context of the society where my local church exists. All this is because of what Christ has done for us, becoming our peace between God and man, making us as one body, tearing down the middle wall of separation, and abolishing the enmity in His flesh by His once and for all sacrifice. What an amazing Christ we have! Believers must love their local church because in and through Christ, we are one body. May God grant us a more conscious seriousness and love for the Bride whom His Son died, so that we may live our life together as one Body, glorifying and magnifying the One who loved us, and gave Himself for us.