Disconnected from the Body
Asking about churchless Christians is a bit like asking why the family member who separated from the family is in danger—the orphan from the parents, the sheep from the flock. Why is the body part disconnected from the body in danger?
Being a part of the church is what we are. It's not just a practical thing. It’s not just good for us. It doesn’t exist just to help us grow spiritually. Though all of this is true, even before that, it's an ontological—or an identity—thing. Again, it's what we are. Don't tell me you belong to the family if you're never at the family dinner table.
The danger of a Christian being separated from the church is two-fold. First, not being a part of a church and not engaging with the church means our discipleship could be misshapen. Christian growth is church growth. Our discipleship to Christ should take a church shape again. Think about a body part connected to the body. Everything about what it means to be an arm means being connected to the body. And so it is with a Christian and the church. If you try to grow as a Christian apart from a church, your growth will be misshapen.
The Christian needs the body of Christ.
The second danger is even more grievous, and even a little scarier, and that is the possibility of self-deception. It's possible to think you're a part of the body of Christ when you really aren't. It's possible to think I know Jesus. I follow him. But the apostle John says, Don't you say you love Jesus but hate the brother? Don't you say you love Jesus but want nothing to do with the saints?
Be around them, commit yourself to them, let them inconvenience you, even as you share your life with them. Apart from the church, our discipleship can be misshapen. We can be self-deceived. The Christian needs the body of Christ.
Jonathan Leeman is the coauthor with Collin Hansen of Rediscover Church: Why the Body of Christ Is Essential.
Do multiservice and multisite church models run counter to the pattern for the local church we see in the New Testament?
The local church is the authority on earth that Jesus has instituted to officially affirm and give shape to my Christian life and yours.
How should Christians think about political disagreements within the church and how much should politics be shared from the pulpit?
What problems with our lives, priorities, and even theology do we not recognize? What would it look like to wake up to our own blind spots and to lovingly engage with those with whom we disagree?