Jesse: I can't see how we can read though the Bible and not clearly see the call to a commitment to a local assembly in person.
Mack: It would be like saying, "Well, I want to play football, but I don't want to be on a team." It makes no sense. Christianity is the people of God. Christ has redeemed a people. And it's a family the Bible says. It's a body. It's a building. What good is a brick laying on the grass by itself? It's not functioning any good for any purpose until it's connected to other bricks and it's cemented together as a part having its place.
Kevin: You know, it's so important for someone - for a Christian to be part of a local church. That's the means God has given. You don't get that impression in Scripture where He just saves Christians and has them dotted about just everywhere just by themselves. You know, when we're saved, we become part of a body - a localized body. You know, God expects His Christians to gather in local gatherings. All the letters are addressed to the churches. You see that in whatever region whether it's in Galatia or Thyatira or wherever - in Ephesus. You know, he's speaking to people in that region.
Jesse: Some people struggle with the word "membership." And if you want to throw out the word membership, I don't care. But the notion, the concept of being a part of a family of faith in person - so much of what we are called to in the Scriptures can not be fulfilled without the understanding of commitment to a local group of believers. Take for instance the call given to pastors. We are told that a pastor's going to give an account for those that they pastor. How do we know who we pastor without the notion of there being a commitment to a specific local group of people? Who am I responsible for? Everyone who logs into the website? You take the notion of church discipline. You can't fulfill church discipline without the understanding that you're a part of a local assembly and being put out of it would have an impact on you and lead you to repentance. So, you can't fulfill it. You can't fulfill the one anothers.
Kevin: The other Christians with all their little quirks and whatever, being in their lives, it helps you grow together. But again, someone's not going to get that on the Internet. And one of the evidences someone is a true Christian is we know we've passed from death to life if you love the brethren. It's very easy to say "I love people" on Facebook or whatever who you've never met and around the world and they're a nice person. Well, you know, they may be a horrible person. (incomplete thought) It may be a PR (public relations) job what you're seeing on the Internet. So again, the means is to find a local church to be part of. And generally, when one is truly converted they will crawl over broken glass to find one.
Mack: A Christian can only grow, they can only be rightly related to Christ as they're rightly related to the church. Why? Because He's the head of the church. And so, you can only be related to the Head if you're a part of the body. If my finger's cut off and it's laying over here, (incomplete thought). So we can only grow properly as we're a part of the church and all that that means. The last verse of 2nd Peter says, "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." And the New Testament tells us in teaching, in exhortation, and by example, the believers were together, were worshiping together. And so there is no biblical Christianity, there's no living the Christian life or living out biblical Christianity; there's no pleasing God without being a part of a biblical church.
Jesse: When we look at that call Paul gives to the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 12, regarding the gifts, and he talks about that each one has been gifted for the edification of the body. And I understand that that doesn't mean that you can't use your gifts outside the church. It's not an exclusive thing. But this is what it's written to. It's written to a local church to be used for the building up. Paul speaks about it in Ephesians 4. When each part is doing their role, we're built up to maturity fit for the head of Christ. And so when you have someone out there who is not committed to that, you can't fulfill the one anothers as they're given in Scripture. And so this notion that you can float around or just glean from the Internet and not be committed and accountable to a specific group of believers, it's unfounded in Scripture.
Kevin: One of the biggest dangers for young Christians in our generation is because we've become an Internet society where people tend to react on social media rather than in real life. And a lot of it's fake. (unintelligible) But the danger of that is to translate it into the church where you get these so-called "Internet Christians" where they have no interest in being around real believers in the flesh. I don't mean in the flesh in a bad way, but I mean in person, because again, to actively be in other people's lives and submit to authority, you can only do that in reality, not in some kind of hypothetical social media context.
Clint: I would say it's a necessity to be a part of a biblical church. To be isolated is no existence. It's very difficult. It might be for a season. But the desire, the motivation ought to be to either start a biblical church, become a biblical church themselves, or become a part of a biblical church. It's necessary for longevity. You know, we live in a day and age where the Internet supplies us with vast resources of sermons. Sermons at every hand. Video sermons, livestream sermons, and so on. But there's nothing like being a part of a congregation, sitting there, with your mouth open and your Bible open, taking in what's coming to you from the pulpit with the solid belief that what you're hearing right then is God's Word for you on that occasion, on that morning. There's nothing like that. And so the other Internet sermons, CD's, and so on, those can be auxiliary. Those can be additional. Those can be sort of emergency rations if you want to call it that. But we really do need to be a part of a believing church.
Kevin: The thing that makes a church most biblical - it can become a cliche, so you've got to be careful with it, but it being Christ-centered. And I say it can become a cliche because it's very easy for people to say that, but is that what people center on there? I don't mean that it's Israel-centered where people are obsessed with Jews. I don't mean where people are obsessed with end times or conspiracy theories and that's the thing that gathers them together. You know, some professing churches, the big uniting factor is they're all of a certain race. But they shouldn't be race-centered. Let me clarify on that one. It's like in America, you go to certain parts or certain parts of the world. Everyone will be pretty similar if you like, but in a city like San Antonio or Manchester where I come from, it's very multi-cultural. The church should reflect that if the uniting factor is Christ there. It shouldn't be that people are home-schooled-centered. Or anything else basically. Or the big thing is we do street evangelism or we meet in a house. But are the people enamored with Christ there? Once you see the real thing, it's very easy to see the difference. Again, what makes a biblical church is not someone doing a big PR video saying we're so lovely here and everyone's no nice and loving. But you come there and Christ should be the drawing thing. Now if He is the drawing thing, then the other things generally will all be true anyway. The preaching of His Word is essential - that they're getting the sermons from Scripture. Not a pastor putting a verse of Scripture up on a screen and then talking about whatever else for the time. Are they expositing the Scriptures there? And being truthful to them? You know, not trying to explain them away and things like that, but does this church follow the Bible? Are the people living it? Because that's the thing. True conversion - are there true Christians there? (Incomplete thought) And that's where the Christ- centeredness comes. When people are centered on other things - of course, a Christian can get out of balance for a time. But when it's all the time, it tends to be a lack of true conversion there. And another thing with dealing with that is of course church discipline. Will a church be faithful with people souls? When they go astray, when they go on in sin, will they come and correct them and put them out of the church if necessary for their own good? And for the good of the church and so forth? Because you don't want to be somewhere where if you go astray, no one's going to come and correct you. They're just going to put their arm around you all the way to hell. So those things definitely are the most important: true conversion, the preaching of the Word. Are the sermons challenging? As in, do they engage you? What I'm saying is you can teach through the Bible, but it can all be Bible trivia where it doesn't engage your life. I'm not saying that every sermon needs to give you a kicking. For instance, if you hear a sermon on giving, and you're faithfully giving, you shouldn't be convicted. You should be encouraged by that. Because some Christians get into that mentality where every sermon needs to knock them out. (incomplete thought) We should be challenged there. It shouldn't be just about: we're the perfect church, but look at those out there and all their faults. It should be engaging my life and helpful to me.
Tim: When you have God come down and break into your life - the God who is love - and save your soul, if God is saving men, women, boys, and girls, there's going to be love. He said of course there is. There always is. And any community that does not have love, John tells us in these verses, he tells us in v. 8, "Anyone who does not love does not know God because God is love." Brethren, if you find churches where there's no love, it's because it's not a church. It's not one of His churches. It's not a candlestick. That's John's conclusion. That's what we see here. Think about these words again. "Beloved..." I'm going to read verses 7-10. "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God. Whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God because God is love."
Kevin: The churchless person - realize this, they have an evidence of salvation missing until they're part of a church with believers. I'm not saying they're not saved, but you know, we know he's passed from death to life because he loves the brethren.
Don: There is no such thing as lone ranger - I call it being a lone ranger - me being saved out here apart from my fellowship and my participation in the local body. I can't know that I'm a real Christian unless I'm in the local church. You can't know. You can't have any assurance that you're a real Christian by reading books and by listening to sermons and being out here isolated and say, well, it's wonderful. We love God. Listen, if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanses us from all sin. By this we know that we have passed from death into life because we love the brethren. We have to have brethren around us to prove that we are Christians. And we have to have brethren to show that we really love the brethren. And how can we love God - this is such a theme in the little epistle of 1 John - how can we say we love God and not be in union and fellowship and in love with brothers and sisters in Christ in a local body? (incomplete thought) There's going to be contention. There will be division at times. There will be misunderstandings. There will be differences of opinion. But these have to be in grace. These have to be worked through. You have to live through these things. You have to walk through these things. You have to submit to one another. You have to learn that we've been called and called out from the world, and we've been put into an assembly upon earth. If we forsake the assembling of ourselves together, we fall out of the realm of teaching. We fall out of the realm of oversight. We fall out of the area of communion and fellowship. We're no longer participating in the ordinance. There's no way in the world you can sit alone by yourself and take the Lord's Supper. There's no way in the world you can baptize yourself. You're baptized by someone else. You take the Lord's Supper with other people. It's a supper and it's for the family. So, I would say again, there's a lot of misguided, misdirected souls that don't want to have any part to do with a local church. They're greatly in error. And I would not go so far as to say that all of them are completely lost, but I'm saying this, they are going to be very stunted and have an accounting - if they're not going to be willing to be accountable here, they're going to have to give an accounting to Him one day. And I sure wouldn't want to be standing before the Lord Jesus Christ when He says, "Why wouldn't you be a part of My church?"