Why the Local Church is Irreplaceable

by Steve Klein

Intro: In an article carried in Newspapers and on the Internet, Scripps Howard News Service religion writer Terry Mattingly wrote recently of the "Fade Away Church Movement."  This is an effort by many denominational or independent churches to re-invent themselves as non-churches to appeal to people.

  A typical name change reflecting this effort would be when the Community Assembly of God Church becomes the Community Church, then the Community Family Worship Center and finally, the Center for Family Love.  Notice the trend in these names away from God-centered "church," and toward names that focus on man and emotion. 

  In these churches, drama, video, humor & musical entertainment have replaced hymns, Scripture reading and sermons.  Martin Marty of the University of Chicago observed that if someone does succeed in creating a non-church church "there will be just on thing wrong with: It will have nothing to do with the Christian faith."

  And there is in fact a call from some to do away with churches entirely.  Internet and radio evangelist Harold Camping has told his followers "No longer are you to be under the spiritual rulership of the church -- the church as ceased to be an institution or divine organism to serve God&ldots;"  Camping advocates forming fellowships with no pastors that exist to support mass-media evangelism. 

  Evangelical scholar Gene Edward Veith notes that "American churches have been complicit in this new and heretical anti-church movement."  If we do not need what churches offer, we do not need the churches!

  The attitudes reflected in the Fade Away Church movement may not be just a "denominational problem".  At the summer camp run by Christians that my children attend, the camp convenes Sunday afternoon and evening.  Some do not attend local church services in order to be at camp.  Through the week, there is daily Bible study, singing, prayer, etc. individually and collectively.  Wednesday evening, no provision is made to for the young people to attend a local church (this would involve transporting a large number of children several miles -- the only sound congregation in the area is small).  Is the idea here that people can worship as individuals or in small groups and not be obligated to attend local church assemblies? If so, would this be true once, occasionally or for an entire lifetime?

  While individual or group worship outside of local church assemblies is plainly authorized, and while Jesus is with His people anytime they meet in His name (Matthew 18:18-20), the question is can this replace what is to be done within the local church?

  It is the point of this lesson that the worship assembly of the Local Church cannot be replaced by worship conducted by individuals or groups outside church assemblies.  This is true because the local church assembly offers the following:

I. Unique Edification

II. The Power of Collective Resources

III. Partaking of the Lord's Supper

IV. Leadership/Oversight/Examples

V. Church Withdrawal

Conclusion:  When Paul traveled for the gospel's sake, he was sometimes unable to be with a local church when they met (Acts 20, etc.).  Sometimes circumstances beyond our control make it impossible to meet with a local church. 

1. Worship and Bible study during these times is good, but should not be considered a replacement for assembling with a local church.

2. We must consider whether or not it is necessary for us to be in the position of being unable to meet with a local church.  God will judge!


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