9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
I Thessalonians 5:9-11
“I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” How many times have you heard that? This statement is messed up on so many levels. First, the Church is not something you go to, but something you belong to. The Church is populated with all those who have chosen to follow Christ. In addition, the Bible makes clear that believers need to have a local fellowship that meets together to pray, read Scripture and serve each other. Your local fellowship may or may not have a specific building at which they meet, but every believer needs to be a part of a local body. Jesus did not offer you the option of flying solo. I Thessalonians 5:9-11 helps us understand one of the very important reasons we must belong to a local fellowship: encouragement. It is tough out there and it is so much better when believers are supporting and encouraging one another.
At this point, there are a large number of individuals that say, “Yes, but I was hurt by a church.” To which my response is, “If you have belonged to a local church for any length of time and NOT been hurt, you must be a member of the most boring, lifeless congregation ever!” People hurt each other. People are broken and their brokenness bubbles to the surface and affects others. People are selfish and prideful. No doubt, the leaders of the church need to deal with situations and not just let them poison entire congregations (for 12 years, I was the pastor of a great church with great people, yet I spent an amazing amount of time putting out fires). Each of us needs to grow in the Fruit of the Spirit, but there will always be issues that are a product of the human condition. Abandoning each other is not an option and not the answer.
We need to truly love one another, pray for one another and forgive one another. We need to encourage one another.