Do you ever feel like gathering with fellow believers on Sunday mornings is a habit that you do because it is just that–a habit? I know I can feel that way sometimes. However, despite our tendency to get caught in the routine of it, God designed gathering with the local church to be so much more than a habit or an opportunity to socialize! He designed the local church for our good!
All throughout the New Testament, we read about the local church: we read about who should be in positions of leadership, specific practices to have within the local church, as well how we should serve in the local church and interact with each other, to name just a few topics. As we consider what Scripture teaches about the local church, one overarching theme woven throughout it all is that gathering with the local church is for the spiritual growth of the believer.
But what exactly does this mean? How is physically gathering with a group of other believers supposed to affect one’s spiritual growth?
Here are three reasons to consider:
Spiritual growth is designed to happen in the context of the local church.
Ephesians 4:12-13 tells us that the spiritual leaders of the local church are given “to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” The picture of the universal church being a body takes on flesh and blood in the context of the local church: each member takes on a role and a function for the healthy functioning of the local body of believers. In his excellent book What is a Healthy Church Member, Thabiti Anyabwile sums up this passage with this simple statement: “Ephesians 4:11-16 offers a pretty strong argument that participation in the body of Christ is the main way in which Christ strengthens and matures us” (pg. 91).
And so we believe that attending and participating in a local church is the particular means that God has given us for the growth and edification of every believer.
Spiritual growth is designed to happen while we sit under the teaching and preaching of the Word of God.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good word.” We see here the role that Scripture plays in a believer’s spiritual growth: God uses Scripture to complete and equip the believer. While it is vital that a believer be reading the Word throughout the week, God has designed the local church to provide spiritual leadership and instruction for the growth and maturity of the Body, as we’ve already seen from Ephesians
Spiritual growth is designed to happen when we worship and fellowship with the believers.
In Ephesians 5:19, we are instructed to address “one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.”
When we open our mouths and speak words of praise to God for His enduring faithfulness, steadfast love, and never-ceasing grace and mercy, we remind each other of God’s work in each of our lives.
When we sing of the dark valleys that God takes His children through and also the tender compassion He has towards His children, we encourage each other to keep pressing forward with our eyes on the Savior who walks beside us.
When we sing of the cross that saves, we rehearse to each other who we once were and who we have now become because of Christ.
Indeed, there is incredible spiritual worth in lifting our voices together in song to build each other up in songs and hymns and spiritual songs. We must not take this task lightly.
However, as much as we know in our minds the importance of this regular gathering with the saints, it is easy to let it slip, isn’t it? Hebrews 10:24-25 warns us to guard against getting lazy in encouraging each other through this intentional gathering: “And let us consider how to stir up on another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Because of this tendency to slack off on gathering together for instruction, mutual encouragement, and accountability, we must make church a part of our regular, weekly rhythm. Our weekly gathering together with fellow believers is important for our spiritual growth and maturity, both for ourselves and for the other believers around us.
The next time you find yourself going through the motions as you head to church, remind yourself of God’s divine purpose for the local church in your life and thank Him for it!