In the opening chapter of his book, The Living Church, the late John R.W. Stott has some strong words for those who call themselves believers in Christ all the while having nothing to do with the local church (which is the body of Christ). He calls the un-churched Christian a “grotesque anomaly” (p.19).
It is an anomaly; that is, it is abnormal. It is simply not the way that it is supposed to be. He wastes no time informing us as to why such a person is anomalous. He simply states,
The New Testament knows nothing of such a person. (p.19)
That just might be the best one-sentence argument against church-less Christianity that you will ever read. You will look in vain to find anywhere in the Scriptures where a believer in Christ all by his or her lonesome (or even a family), disconnected from a local body of believers, is considered to be the norm, or even that such a thing is acceptable. In fact, everywhere in Scripture the exact opposite is stated, implied, or assumed.
In the book of Hebrews we are told in no uncertain terms that we are intended to meet together for public worship on a regular basis:
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 10:23-25 ESV)
You will notice that everything about this passage is first-person plural (i.e. we, not I; us, not me). There is nothing privatized about anything here. We are to hold fast to “the confession of our hope” (v.23) together. We are to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (v.24). And we are not to neglect to “meet together,” but are rather to encourage one another (v.25).
Now just because something is an anomaly (or even a “grotesque” one, to use Stott’s words), does not mean that it is not all-too-common. In fact, the passage cited above clearly tells us that neglecting to meet together is (unfortunately) “the habit of some” (v.25). In our day it actually seems to be the habit of many. To be sure, there are numerous reasons for such a neglect of the public gathering of the church. But, to be blunt, none of those reasons does away with the simple fact that believers in Christ are meant to meet together, worship together, serve together, and grow together.
Much more could certainly be said. Perhaps in future posts on this blog we will take some time to explore some of the various reasons that many give for not belonging to a local church. But for the time being, if you somehow find yourself falling into the unfortunate and unflattering category of the “grotesque anomaly,” there is no better time than the present to resolve that you (and your family) will finally stop “neglecting to meet together” with the body of Christ.
Look for a local church where the Bible is clearly believed and taught, where the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are rightly administered, and where the elders of the church will faithfully exercise discipline for your good. And if you need any help finding such a church, get together with some other believers whom you know and ask them for help. You may find yourself in a church that is far from perfect and even quite messy, but that is much better than being grotesque, isn’t it?