I've heard them all before. Maybe you have too. Or maybe you are in this boat even as you read this blog. I am talking about the common objections for why people don't join a local church. They come in various shapes and sizes.
Just between us girls, let's be honest with one another. These so called objections are simply nothing more than excuses. They are ways people rationalize not committing to a local body to keep them accountable. This should come as no surprise, especially in the non-committal culture we live in, where church membership is looked at as no more than a club with a view only of "What can I get out of it". If nothing, then I'm bailing.
So let's address each of these objections. Oops. Typo. I mean excuses.
"I've been burned."
My response to this is, "Who hasn't?" We all have. Therefore, no one should join a church so as not to be burned again, right? And I don't think it a stretch to say that you yourself may have burned others as well. If we never want to be hurt again, then let's lock ourselves in our homes, and never have any contact with the outside world, never mind with people of the church. After all, in today's world, you can do all your work and shopping from the comfort of your home computer.
This argument is weak than for no other reason that it reveals that this person is a peace-faker, pushing everything under the proverbial rug until one day Mt. Vesuvius explodes. They avoid all conflict because they think that conflict in and of itself is wrong. But biblically, conflict in and of itself is not wrong because it is an opportunity to glorify God through it, to grow in your faith as a result of it, and to serve other people in the process. The key is on how you learn to resolve conflict. The Bible is clear on how.
"If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men"
Romans 12:18, emphasis added
"Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering."
Matthew 5:23-24, emphasis added
In this case, the scenario is not if you have something against your brother, but if your brother has something against you. The fleshly, ungodly and unbiblical knee jerk reaction would be to say, "Well, if so and so has something against me, let them take the initiative and come to me." But the radical teaching that Jesus offers is the only God-honoring response, and that is to realize the onus is on you and for you to take the initiative.
"If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother."
Matthew 18:15, emphasis added
"Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."
Ephesians 4:32, emphasis added
"See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;"
"So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another."
So this excuse is not so much a commentary on the other people who've burned the person, but more of a commentary on the person and on their unbiblical understanding of conflict and how to reconcile relationships.
"They are all a bunch of hypocrites."
My response to this is, "How can you see clearly enough to see the hypocrisy and speck that is in other people's eyes, when in the meantime there is a log in your own eye?"
"Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye."
"I can just watch a message on T.V. Sunday."
One problem to this excuse is that most teachers on T.V. are false teachers who are propagating the doctrines of demons. Paul warns his son in the faith, pastor Timothy of this.
"But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons."
1 Timothy 4:1, emphasis added
Unfortunately this is not as obvious as it should be because of the major lack in discernment in the church and the high tolerance that permeates our culture and has seeped into the church!
A further problem with this excuse is that you need to be in regular contact with other Christians, in corporate worship and to practice the one another injunctions of the New Testament, i.e. love one another, forgive one another, encourage one another, bear one another's burdens, etc., all of which, by the way, cannot be done looking at your T.V. set.
"I read my Bible every day anyway."
Great. Keep reading. Don't stop. That is your spiritual nourishment. However, you also need to listen to the Bible, with other Christians, from a pastor who is qualified as an expositor of the Scripture. That means the point of his sermon is the point of the sacred text.
"I still love Christ though I'm not part of a local church."
I've got to be honest and say I have doubts that you love Christ if you're not part of a local church. You see, one who truly loves Christ will love what Christ loves. And Christ loves His Church.
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,"
Ephesians 5:25, emphasis added
So much so that He sacrificed Himself for Her, and this willingly. Furthermore, to say you are committed to Christ is to say you are committed to His Church. You cannot separate the Head from the Body. In his testimony, the apostle Paul said that he persecuted the church( Gal. 1:13; Phil. 1:6), yet Jesus said to him, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting." (Acts 26:15). How can that be? Because to persecute the Church, the Body, is to persecute the Head, Jesus!
"I am not in agreement with their statement of faith."
Now, if you mean things that relate to...
...the inspiration, inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture
...the Deity of Christ,
...the substitutionary death of Christ
...the bodily resurrection of Christ
...justification by faith alone in Christ alone,
then I would say you need to sit down with the leadership and discuss these matters. If the church denies any of these critical, essential, non-negotiable doctrines of the Christian faith, then you need to look for another church.
But if you mean that you have a different view of the timeline of end times or the mode of baptism, then I would say join the church as long as you submit to the leadership (Hebrews 13:17) and don't try to draw disciples after you and thus cause division over these matters.
"I have certain areas of my life that I'm still working on."
Don't we all. Your sanctification will not end until one of 2 things happens: you die and are ushered into the presence of the Lord OR the Lord returns. So join a church as an official member with others who are still in the same lifelong process of sanctification.
The Word of God is crystal clear, not pulling any punches.
"and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near."
Hebrews 10:24-25, emphasis added
It is a clear command of Scripture to not forsake assembling together with other believers. And since a command, to disobey is to sin against the One who gave it, namely God Himself.
R.B. Kuiper in his book The Glorious Body of Christ writes,
It is clear that in the days of the apostles it was universal practice to receive believers into the visible church. What could be more logical? He who believes in Christ is united with Christ. Faith binds him to Christ. He is a member of Christ's body, the invisible church. But the visible church is but the outward manifestation of that body. Every member of the invisible church should as a matter of course be a member of the visible church. Extremely significant in this connection is Acts 2:47 - "And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." Not only does the Lord Christ require of those who are saved that they unite with the church; He Himself joins them to the church. And the reference is unmistakably to the visible church. The Scriptural rule is that, while membership in the church is not a prerequisite of salvation, it is a necessary consequence of salvation.
Hariton Deligiannides is the pastor of Mendon Communiy Church. Pastor Hariton proclaims the truth of Scripture in order to help people come to a knowledge of the truth, namely that Jesus is the only mediator between God and man, and to then get grounded and rooted in the deep truths of Scripture.