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Ephesians 3:14-21

…to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus… (v. 21)

As a pastor I hear the question fairly often: "Why do Christians need to go church?" Sometimes the questioner is a young child wanting to get out of his boredom on Sunday morning. Other times the questioner sincerely wonders why we must be a part of a church if we can have a relationship with God anywhere, anytime. Most often, the questioner is an adult hoping to be "spiritual but not religious."

The local church is the hope of the world. Unless we are physically unable, every Christian should be a part of a church. The church is where Christ gets glory (Eph. 3:21) and where we (not just I) shine as lights in the world (Phil. 2:15). The New Testament assumes that believers belong, not just to the church universal, but  to a specific community of Christians. That's why Paul wrote nine of his thirteen letters to churches and why each church in Revelation is represented by an individual lampstand. God's plan has always been to establish a people, not simply a loose assortment of individuals.

It's through the preaching of the word, the giving of gifts, the building up of the body, the loving of the unlovely-all in the context of the local church-that Christ gets glory.


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16 thoughts on “Glory of God: Glory to God and Going to Church”

  1. G. Kyle Essary says:

    The Lord is gracious. I about an hour away from teaching our church plant about the importance of the local church at our Friday fellowship. I was just praying that the Lord would give a final amount of clarity on the issue and sure enough this post pops up in my feedreader. Thanks.

  2. Mark McKeen says:

    http://mmckeen.blogspot.com/2011/06/glory-of-god-in-church.html

    The sole purpose for the church is to bring God glory. It is also the chief purpose of man. So it would make sense that people wanting to give God glory would desire to be a part of a local church. I’m going to step out on a limb here: any believer that does not want to be a part of a local church has some ulterior motive in mind. They are not devoted to God’s glory.

  3. Bill says:

    Kevin,

    Thanks for the encouragement. I think that Hebrews 10:24-25 might be an adequate answer for those that wish to be a spiritual island.

    “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.”

    This need not necessarily be talking about church gatherings, since the author of Hebrews is talking about the old covenant being replaced with the new (no sacrifices, no temple system … perhaps that was the excuse used by some). But certainly a regular church gathering would fulfill this encouragement, and it makes the most sense when you combine it with New Testament context and exhortations to teach, sing and have leadership.

  4. Kathy says:

    Thanks for this post. Lately it seems like there are a lot of “gatherings” that pass for church. I would consider myself part of the generation who explored the emerging church, or just doing church differently than our parents, and it often leads to a redefining of church that misses the glory of God without discipline and fellowship with a varied body of believers. It can be difficult to encourage friends to go to church when they don’t think they really need to, or when they can find something wrong with nearly every church available to them.

  5. “It’s through the preaching of the word, the giving of gifts, the building up of the body, the loving of the unlovely–all in the context of the local church–that Christ gets glory.”

    These things all happen because Christ already is glorified and has all the Glory he needs.

    So these things manifest His Glory. Proclaim it. And what is his Glory? It is that he has paid for the Sins of the World on the Cross. We glorify Christ by hiding our own wretched and damnable works and faith and thinking and doing and responding emotionally in the works of Another.

    It is not the good works of a christian that are transformed. It is not even is heart. What makes a Christian different from a pagan is alone a NEW heart that is received in the waters of holy Baptism in regeneration.

  6. J.J. says:

    I, too, believe being part of a church is important but I also am very disappointed to see what the church has become – at least the church I am familiar with. As a long time member of the RCA, I’ve seen the church become one that worships the acceptance and approval of the world rather than the accpetance and approval of our heavenly Father.

    Specifically in the last generation I’ve seen the five pillars of the RCA become 1. socialism under the guise of social justice, 2. egalitarianism, 3. Room for All, 4. the Belhar, and 5. the church growth movement. I do not see support for any of these in the Word of God and I have seen theological integrity take a back seat to the yearning for worldly approval.

    I love the social aspects of church and being part of a local body of believers. However, does being part of the social club of church take priority over the integrity of the preaching and the hearing of the Word?

    After many years of being a member of an RCA church, I have removed myself from attendance. I have many friends who are Christians and I feel more edified by being around this “body of believers” outside of a church setting than I have for many years when entering a building with a sign outside that says they are a church so I am still part of a “community of Christians” to use Kevin’s words, just not in a building.

    I miss going to church and all that it means. I hope to find one some day that is not filled with worldly agendas but whose only agenda is pleasing God. In the meantime, I enjoy the company of a very fine “community of Christians” at work, home, and through working with missionary agencies that bring the word of God to many others.

  7. A. Amos Love says:

    Kevin

    Was wondering… Does the Bible ever declare… “The “local church” is *the hope* of the world?”
    I can’t seem to find “local church” in my antiquated KJV. ;-)

    Seems to me what most would call “local church” in the USA is not working, people are leaving in droves. Today’s Religious System is broken and fragmented. Wikipedia says there are 38,000 denominations. Even if they overstated by 95%, that’s still about, 2,000 different denominations. ALL with “local churches.” Started by “local leaders” who disagreed with other “local leaders” and wanted to build “Their Church – Their way.”

    I don’t believe – division and confusion – the local church – is – “The Hope of the world?”

    Think I’ll stick with *Jesus as* – The hope of the world. The hope of salvation. The hope of eternal life. The hope of righteousness. And “Christ in me the hope of Glory.”

    I don’t believe – people going to a “local church” – that’s part of this division and confusion…
    Brings any Glory to God at all.

    And – Did anyone in the Bible ever… *Go to* church? Join a church? Give money to a church? Tithe to a church? Build a building and call it a church? Hire, and fire, pastors?

    I can’t seem to find any of that in my antiquated KJV either. ;-)

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall “hear My voice; “
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}} The hope of the world…

  8. A. Amos Love says:

    Mark McKeen

    You write…
    “I’m going to step out on a limb here: any believer that does not want to be a part of a local church has some ulterior motive in mind. They are not devoted to God’s glory.”

    I left the “local church” in the early 90’s thru much pain, tears, and “Spiritual Abuse.” It was lonely then – but I could no longer put up with the abusive control, the manipulation, the scripture twisting, by those who told me they were my – Leaders – my – God Ordained Authority – and I was to obey and submit to them. I actually believed, and taught that – for awhile. :-(

    I found out the hard way… When you disagree with the heirarchy… When you challenge their – Power, Profit, and Prestige… Things get very ugly very fast. And I was ordained, I was in leadership. But now it was my turn to experience the wrath of those who said – They are the “God Ordained Authority.”

    The problem was they “Exercised that Authority like the Gentiles.” And Jesus taught “His Disciples” NOT to exercise Authority like the Gentiles. Mat 20:25, Mark 10:42, Luke 20:25.

    These guys, leaders, who were labeling me rebellious because I disagreed with them,
    were actually the ones in rebellion to Jesus by Exercising Authority. ;-)

    “Spiritual Abuse” has a benefit – It drives you to Jesus. ;-)

    So please, when you find someone who doesn’t belong to a “local church” there might be a reason.
    Please do not accuse them of – “They are not devoted to God’s glory.”
    That just brings more pain. :-(

    Try asking them first – “You don’t belong to a local church – Well – How are you doing with Jesus?

    I now know many, who will never again walk into a building called church, who love Jesus…
    And are totally devoted to Jesus, devoted to the truth of the scriptures…
    Devoted to “Hearing His Voice” following and being obediant to Jesus…
    And devoted to God’s Glory.

    Thank you Jesus… :-)

  9. why go to church?

    Isn’t that obvious? Where else would you get the body and blood of Christ that he commands us all to eat and drink for the forgiveness of our sins? Where else would we go to remember him in exactly the way he commanded us to remember Him?

  10. BilF says:

    I understand Kevin is speaking in a general sense and not on a specific scenario/one size fits all declaration on this matter (at least I believe he is). But, I too, living in a very rural part of a certain Commonwealth, am finding it very difficult to locate a solid church close by where I can be heavily involved that isn’t heavily tinged with what I call American-Pelagianism.

    Is it better to worship & devote your time, treasure, and talents in a building where the leadership instructs in false doctrine (especially if, like myself, you have impressionable children) or stay away from it and do what you can in the confines of your own home (as lonely as that is) where technology has made solid instruction easily available (say, Ligonier Ministries videos for example) and if two or three are gathered in His name, there He is in the midst of them?

    It is far easier to wax eloquent on the importance of attending church in the comfort of a solid community of believers who are close at hand than it is living in distant parts where the preaching of the genuine Gospel is non-existant. As some of the previous commentators have stated, it is extremely sad and difficult when things are not ideal. But that’s part of what living is like in this vale of tears.

  11. RJ says:

    This is a unique problem for non-liturgical churches that minimize the sacraments (as frank said). If “church” is just getting together with other believers and listening to a sermon, you can get the same experience through other means. Which is why pastors in these churches need to come up with new ways to make it seem essential, by spiritualizing the act of getting together.

    Historically speaking, it’s difficult to say that this is what Paul had in mind when he thought of local churches. The historical and archeological evidence points to communities that were going to a new type of synagogue, albeit one that saw Jesus as Messiah. Similar elements are there: readings, prayers, sacrifices, preaching, the altar, and so on. If you go to a synagogue, it has much more in common with a traditional, liturgical Christian church than an evangelical church. You might read that as an indictment depending on your perspective but I’d consider it a compliment. I think Paul would be stunned at how far some Christians have turned from sacraments and sacred spaces.

    Paul was very clear that baptism and the Lord’s supper were the foundations of the community. Why else would the early Christians in Rome go to the trouble of hiding out in catacombs to receive the body and blood? They knew it was important, and risked their lives accordingly.

    Unfortunately, many evangelicals today have little connection with those practices and thus need to reinvent the wheel to stay relevant. Catholics and Anglicans and Orthodox have plenty of their own problems, but inventing an ecclesiology is not one of them.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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