Where do you go to church?

Can you imagine what it would be like if all the saints in your town gathered as one body, in love and in freedom? What a testimony that would be to the reality of Jesus Christ!

In the first century a church was identified only by its location. In other words, the biblical ground of the church is locality, and the only biblical grounds for separation between one church and another is location. It’s all a matter of geography, you see. In the New Testament you never see a church with a name. You only see “the church at such-and-such a place.” The issue is one of locality.

Alas, however, the setup of most “churches” today denies this basic fact of oneness and locality. The church building is the center of fellowship, where all (or most) of the action takes place, and people are drawn to come to it from many surrounding localities. Sadly, the people who gather in this manner are not provided much of a life together outside of the Sunday services, simply by virtue of the fact that they do not live near one another. The believers are scattered, much like the Jewish people were under Babylonian captivity long ago. Thus the majority of true church life-which is more than a weekly meeting but a day-to-day living together as the body of Christ-is lost.

Then consider this: Most “churches” today have names that reflect either a man, a doctrine, or a particular ideology, whether drawn from scripture or not. This is a contradiction of the true nature of the church, which has its life in Christ and gathers unto His name alone. This kind of gathering around a particular doctrine or teaching, or a gifted individual who handles all the ministry, is a major hindrance to any hope we might have of a practical unity finding expression among the Lord’s people.

If you were to ask me at different points in my life where I went to church I might have answered, “First Baptist,” “God’s Tabernacle,” or something similar. But if you were to ask God what church I am a member of, He would simply say, “the church in Portsmouth.”

It’s funny if you think about it. The very question most people spend so much time fretting over-“Where should I go to church?”-has already been answered for them by God. If you are a believer, if you have the life of God inside of you, then you are a part of the church in the town where you live. Period. If only all God’s people would see this precious truth and begin to live and gather according to it!

I am already a member of a local church, the church at Portsmouth. I don’t need to sign up or enroll in any membership class, or join a particular organization. I became a member by spiritual birth. The very moment I was born again in Jesus Christ I was also born into the family of God. The family of God worldwide, yes, but more specifically, the family of God in my own town. Membership in the local church comes by spiritual birth!

Even still, it’s not enough to confess this truth in theory and never see it come to any practical expression. The fulfillment of God’s purpose demands a practical expression of the church; therefore, we have to face this issue practically. If God has given us light concerning the local character of His church and the oneness of His body then we must follow through with it, as impossible and impractical as it may seem. This is how believers gathered in the first century. I know times have changed and that our situation today is drastically different than theirs was then, but even so, God’s will is just the same. Could it ever really be this way again, if only on a small scale? How I wish! But as the old song goes, “though none go with me, still I will follow.” This then is what we must work towards and live for: A true expression of the body of Christ!

Your comments and thoughts are more than welcome on this post, as I realize most people have probably never looked at things in this way before. I’m interested to know what you think.

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About Joshua

Writer, husband, father, friend. View all posts by Joshua

10 responses to “Where do you go to church?

  • j kreider

    *applause*

    full agreement. i especially like how succinct you put this: “it’s not enough to confess this truth in theory and never see it come to any practical expression.” we’ve had tons of people questioning what “church” looks like to us and how we “keep in touch” with other believers…. almost as if they believe there’s no possible way to live the life of a disciple outside of the traditional, institutional church setting. There certainly is; it just takes a lot more effort sometimes.

    are you willing that i could share the link to your blog with others, friends and family??

  • Lucas Bentley

    In reading this post, I learned a bit more regarding this topic. I appreciate the more in-depth look at this topic according to Scripture.

    I have come to the realization that 5 church buildings (side by side/across the street/.5 miles down the same road or street from one another) of various denominations is pathetic and annoying. And without much examination of what God calls the local church to be, I have disliked the current status of church today.

    I often wonder who and why our fellow Christian brothers and sisters decided to set up church in such a way that there is all this legality crap in regards to the ideas of having various committees and a hierarchical system in order for a denominational church to function.

    I agree with what you have to say. But in all aspects regardless of where one meets to fellowship and worship, the motive behind the reason for such is the key. And God knows each of our motives for wanting to honor Him through worship with others.

    But oh how I do wish to get back to what church was truly called to be in regards to defining church in relation to a meeting place/locality.

    • lawdawg23

      Hey brother!

      Church history makes for a very interesting study in this regard. Not that I know all there is to know, but it has helped me understand things a lot better. How we got to where we are today, for example.

      You are right, though, when you say that motive is everything. May our only motive be a burning desire for Jesus Christ and a love for the church which is His body!

  • Chuck Shroll

    Well put! It hasn’t been till recently that I actually thought about it much. It was a major revelation when I realized that being a Christian is not about where you go or what you do as much as it is about relationship with God. Sometimes it is easier to walk a path than to simply walk with God.

    • lawdawg23

      Hey Chuck! Thanks for the comment bro. It was quite a revelation for me as well to see the things you mentioned. Thank God for the simplicity that is found in Jesus Christ!

  • Unity and Locale: My thoughts « PHOENIX RISING

    […] 24, 2010 in Uncategorized This post is in response to a very thoughtful post written by Joshua Lawson at Called To […]

  • Shane

    I love it! You get right to the heart of what is wrong with not only the church but any group of religious people. For a long time I have felt the need to shy away from the titles and buildings and just be one with others who warship the divine, even if they see it in a different light than I do. Very well put brother.

    Aho, Many blessings

  • Where do you go to church? (re-post) « Called to Rebuild

    […] ground of the church I’d like to refer back to my post from March 24 of last year entitled Where do you go to church? Follow the link if you’d like to see the original comments, otherwise here’s a […]

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