John Crott's book "Loving the Church: God's People Flourishing in God's Family" is a great little book to share with someone who doesn't understand why the gathered body of Christ as a local congregation is so important to the Christian faith. There are a number of resources out there that make the same points, and he lists several of those in his appendix at the end, but his has a unique feature that many others do not. The thing that stands out in this book is the first chapter in which he sets the stage for the contents.
He calls chapter one, "Common Grounds" because it is a short story about a group of people who meet one another in a coffee shop. It begins with "John" an active member of a local church having a meeting with "Kevin," a friend of John's who had been a member of his church but whose family, after having become sporadic in their church attendance, had recently announced that they were leaving the church. John had asked Kevin to meet him for coffee to discover why. Far from Kevin falling from the faith, Kevin was more energized about the faith and his responsibility to lead his family than ever. For Kevin, however, the church was not the way to do it. Rather, he was now teaching his family on Sunday mornings. At a table nearby, "Michelle" had been listening in on their conversation and decides to join it. She explains that she and her husband had also left their church and had never been happier or felt more on mission for God as they were now free to be involved in local community activities and were leading non-believers in Bible studies. They had found church to be dull and repetitive but now they were on the front-lines doing kingdom work! Another young lady was listening in named "Rachael." Like the others, she had left her church as well. For her it was because she had gotten pregnant out of wedlock. The father of her child left her and she, in turn, left her church because of the judgment she was receiving. Finally, another friend of John's walks in named "Rick." Rick had been a committed member of John's church until he went off to college. When he returned, he decided to check out a new, more technologically advanced yet doctrinally weaker, church. After some, at times tense, discussions, they all agree that they were looking for the same thing and decide to meet regularly to discuss what it means to be a part of God's family.
What makes this chapter so helpful is that these reasons for not coming to church are so very common and ones that many of us have heard before. The problem is that not many people know what to say in response. Crott seeks to help believers to understand why the local church is so important and how they can get involved.
He begins chapter one by stating, "While there are many reasons given for the small place the church has in their lives, the common denominator is that they all misunderstand the value of the church as presented in the Bible." He then presents "9 Reasons to raise the estimation of the church." I encourage you to read the book, but I share his 9 reasons here, with the pertinent verses, with a couple more added for good measure. BTW, I'd provide the page numbers, but my copy is a Kindle version that does not include page numbers.
9 Reasons to raise your estimation of the church:
1) Isaiah 43:6-7/Ephesians 3:20-21 The church is designed for the glory of God and “is designed by God as a prism, drawing in his radiance and reflecting the rainbow of his perfection among his people and outward to the world.”
2) Matthew 16:16-18 Christ is building His church and we are a part of the Master’s master plan.
3) Ephesians 5:25/Acts 20:28 Jesus loves the church and died for her. Jesus paid an extremely high price for his church because he decided that she is worth it.
4) Ephesians 2:19-22 Jesus is the foundation of the church.
5) 1 Peter 2:5 The church is made of precious building materials.
6) Ephesians 1:22-23/Ephesians 5:25-27, 32/1 Corinthians 3:16-17/1Corinthians 12:12/1 Timothy 3:15= The metaphors of the church reveal its great worth.
7) 1 Timothy 3:15 The church is the pillar and buttress of truth.
8) Matthew 28:16-20 God designed the church to spread his glory to the nations.
9) God designed the church for your spiritual life, growth and health.
I'll add a couple that he doesn't mention in this section (although he does touch on some of these in other areas of the book):
10) The church is God's means by which we are assured of our salvation. If you are a member of a healthy church, you should expect accountability and church discipline if you wander from orthodoxy or engage in behaviors unbecoming a Christian. If you are actively involved in the church and consistently invited to participate in the Lord's Supper, that is the way in which the local congregation is saying to you (even if not with words): "You are giving all the right evidences of being a believer in a right relationship with the Lord." If you are disciplined, this is God's way of using the local church to call you to repentance and to get back into a right relationship with Him and with brothers and sisters in Christ. All of this is for our good and for our assurance.
11) The church is the context in which we are able to be obedient to Christ. Jesus said that if we love Him we will keep His commandments. Many of His commandments have to do with how we live out our faith in the context of a faith community. In fact, the greater bulk of the New Testament was written with that end in mind. That said, we simply cannot be obedient to Christ and to the Word apart from our involvement in a local church.
12) John 17:20-21/Ephesians 3:10/2 Thess. 1:1-10 The church is the context in which our unity with one another is put on display to the world that they might see the implications of the gospel lived out in our lives and the truth of the claims of Christ are supported.
13) The church is the context in which we experience the grace of God through the ordinary means of worship. The preaching of the Word, baptism, the Lord's Supper, not to mention prayer and even singing, are all means that God uses to bless, build up, equip, encourage, and generally provide grace to His people that we might live godly and fruitful lives. These are all corporate events experienced within the context of the church body.
14) The gathered church on a Sunday morning is a declaration of the resurrection of Christ. The early church saw the mere fact that they gathered on a Sunday (the Lord's Day) as a testimony to the world of the resurrection of Christ.
Can you think of any others?