We have just finished a 10-day trip to Canada sharing about the work of 20schemes and also partnering with 9Marks for a day conference on church planting among the poor.
Some of the questions we were seeking to answer were: Why is the local church so important in the life of the Christian? Why does the ministry of 20schemes and 9Marks place such a heavy emphasis on enabling, resourcing and revitalizing gospel ministry in local churches? I want to take time over the next week and lay out some thoughts.
Firstly, because the local church is so fundamentally important to the purposes of God.
Wherever I go in the world now, there is a resurgence of interest in church planting. It has (suddenly?) become very trendy in evangelical churches. I think that’s good. I think that’s very good. As a church planter both in the U.K. and in Brazil, let me tell you there is something truly amazing and special about beginning a gospel ministry and seeing God bring it to fruition with the formation of a local, healthy body of His redeemed people.
The church, both universal and local, is so important to the Lord. We see that all over Scripture. The Bible teaches us that the church is central to the purposes of God. Therefore, it should be central to the life of every true Christian. Paul, writing to the Ephesians in 5:25, 29, says:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her … For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.
Jesus loves the church. That institution we so often grumble and moan about. That thing often dismissed as irrelevant by the world (and sadly by many so-called planters!). That thing many young people want to escape from. Jesus loves it. It is very important to Him. In Acts 20:28 we read that Jesus has built the church with his own blood. The church is built for Jesus, by Jesus and on Jesus. We cannot separate Jesus from the local church.
This is so very important because there are many so-called Christians and, incredibly, even church planters who think that we can. There are an increasing number of people today who think they can live their Christian life at arms length from the body of God’s people. Like the local church is an interruption in their lives and gets in the way of their personal spirituality. But, they are sadly mistaken.
If the gospel is the diamond in the great salvific plan of God, then the church is the metal clasp that supports it, holds it up and shows it in its greatest light for all the world to see.