Recently I have come across many people who want to have Jesus yet want nothing to do with organized gatherings, namely the Church. They question the need of the church, and rightly so, when they see of the lifestyles of the majority of church members. The one common gripe against attending a church I hear more than any other is, "They're no different than I am. Why bother sitting with a bunch of phonies?"

What's so important about a local church? At a time when there's more Bible teaching than you could ever consume available through radio, television and the internet, why should it matter where and how you're taking in God's truth? What's wrong with virtual, web-based congregations for the digital-age church? Why can't your iPod be your worship leader, your tablet be your pastor and your friends your fellowship and accountability?

The answer is simple: That's not the way God designed it. The New Testament repeatedly emphasizes the importance of local assemblies. The Apostle Paul established local congregations in the cities where he preached the gospel so these people could lean one on the other. Oh, and for those who would follow Christ, Hebrews 10:24-25 commands every believer to be a part of a local church, and even why it is necessary: "And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near."

It is only in the local church where one:

1) Can be intimately involved with fellow believers to be stimulated to love and good deeds.

2) Can be encouraged faithfully and biblically.

3) Can be under the protection and nurture of the leadership by being encouraged, admonished and taught the Word of God.

We all can do things individually, but God has called us into His Body -- the church is the local representation of that worldwide body. Active involvement in your local church is imperative to living a life without compromise. It is only through the ministry of the local church that a believer can receive the kind of teaching, accountability and encouragement that is necessary for him to stand firm in his convictions. God has ordained that the church provide the kind of environment where an uncompromising life can thrive and His people can grow spiritually, and that is precisely where he wants you to be.

In this world we live in today, you will not be able to stand alone. You must be involved in a local church. It goes without saying this church must be accurate and truthful with its Bible preaching and teaching. Nonetheless, you must be involved with a local group of believers. God commands it, and you need it.

How is life in this world working out for you? Got a church?

Robert Templeton is pastor of Cope Baptist Church.

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