The church takes on many forms and practices. And I would argue that we can see both “high church” and “low church” in the New Testament. I am thinking we need something of both. Baptism and the Lord’s Table do seem to have meaning more than just symbolic. And the church itself is called the pillar and foundation of the faith. The church also is to live out the call and imperatives to love one another in a variety of ways. The fellowship in communion with God in Jesus by the Spirit is experienced in some part by fellowship with each other. For me that is often what can open the door and bring me into God’s presence, it seems, on a Sunday morning. Of course it is not just a matter of conversing. We also are present to help each other in meeting important needs. And in love we hold each other accountable.
Church is not a nice option or help for our journey in Jesus. It is part of who we are. We are members of Christ, and in being so, we are also members of his body, the church. It is less important just what church or denomination we’re part of. It is most important that we are part of a local gathering. This isn’t just theory in thinking of ourselves as part of the church universal. This has to be worked out in practice, where the rubber meets the road in down to earth local congregations. There needs to be a commitment there, grounded in our Lord and in obedience to him. We are in this for better or for worse. We should never easily leave a church. The consumer mindset shopping mentality we need to reject. We need instead to be in prayer with the intention to stay committed where we are, as long as it is a gathering as church in which together we are trying to follow the Lord in accord with scripture. There sadly does come a time to leave, but it should be a last resort, or something not done easily. Although if the church is not really a church, then we need to find a church. Such would be true if the church has apostatized as in rejecting the resurrection of Christ or the necessity of Christ’s death for sins. Or if a church is not living according to the pattern given in the New Testament, perhaps being little more than a social club. Even in these serious cases, we should want to see repentance and change. But there is a time to leave.
In most cases we should leave only for good reasons that have to do with calling. It is true that at times people become convinced of this or that teaching which differs from one church to the next. Or one’s theology may line up more with one church or denomination than another. Even in these cases we should be slow to leave. Often there is room for variance, and sometimes the differences are really not all that profound or may in practical terms matter very little if at all. That may become evident if we can talk it through with the pastor or leadership of the church.
The church is foundational to us in Jesus. Our calling is linked to it, and we should never think of ourselves apart from the church. We are part of it, members of Christ’s body, to be lived out in commitment within a local church. Necessarily together in seeking to follow God’s call in Christ.