There is a growing theme in American Christianity where people believe they can be in good starting with God and be completely disconnected with the local church. While I understand that hurt and fears may be the driving force for this disconnect, losing connection with the local church always proves to be more detrimental. God blesses the meeting of believers for the purpose of fellowship and edification! Scripture urges us to be devoted to one another in a loving way that will bring reconciliation and the joy of a clear conscience before God and man! Consider this plea from Hebrews,
“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one 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.”Hebrews 10:22-24, (ESV).
What a beautiful depiction of what it looks like for a body of believers to stand in full assurance of faith and intentionally admonish one another to stay strong in the faith! There is a underlying gentleness with the authors’ words that convey a loving, nurturing demeanor in the fellowship of believers. Maybe this has not been your experience with the Church so far in life, but this can not define what Church should be in your mind. The complex beauty of the Bride of Christ is that it is made up of sinners who are all saved by the grace of God! The Church will make many mistakes but there is forgiveness and reconciliation after every single heartbreak. It is possible that your experience with the Church has only brought heartbreak and for that I do give sympathy. It is a sad thing that the place where God should be imitated the most can truly embody the worst hurt. However, scripture calls us to forgive our brothers and sisters every time they ask for forgiveness and seek repentance (Luke 17:4). It may be that you just need to find a new church family that is a little bit farther along in their maturing process, but I plead with you – do not carry resentment in your heart. Seek the Lord to find forgiveness for those who have wronged you and find in peace in that every person will one day stand before the Lord to give an account of what they did on earth. Do not let the sins of your brother hinder your relationship with God and his Church.
Seek the Lord’s will for what church he is calling you to belong to, because it is not a suggestion that you belong to a local body of believers. The local church is designed to be the epicenter of God’s grace to a community – to the body and to the lost community. We see in Acts that the first church devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, fellowship with believers, the Lord’s Supper, and prayer (Acts 2:42). These four crucial acts are not meant to be seen as burdens to keep up with but life-giving habits to enjoy with other believers! We were created to live in community because that is where we find life. Satan would like you to think that you are safe and covered in the darkness; in solitude. However, it is precisely in isolation that Satan puts in his hours of truth deconstruction and temptation. Do not make yourself prone to the attack of Satan. Instead, live in the light in beautiful, God-honoring fellowship with other believers! Find, by the Lord’s directing through prayer, a local body of believers that you can fully belong to. A body that will help bear the burden of life and devote prayer to the things you are dealing with (Galatians 6:2). Just as you have a loving, compassionate friend in Jesus, you were created to have a caring, encouraging friend in the local church. Belong to one another and endure!
“True friendship calls you out of the darkness of personal privacy into the loving candor of mutual concern. It moves you from being a sealed envelope to being an open letter.”Paul David Tripp, Instruments In The Redeemer’s Hands.
See also, Beloved, Belong To Each Other.