Ecclesiology


Aphorisms are everywhere, including Christian circles.  People love aphorisms because they are short and convey truths in a witty, memorable fashion.  The problem with aphorisms is that while they are intended to convey general truths, many people take them to be Gospel truth.  “All we need is God” is a popular Christian aphorism.  There is a lot of truth to this.  We need God more than anything else, and to the extent that this aphorism emphasizes that fact, it should be affirmed as true.  But if “all” is understood literally, so that it comes to mean that we have no need of anything other than God, then the aphorism is patently false.  Indeed, it is unchristian.  While we need God most of all, Scripture is quite clear that we also need people—particularly people of like precious faith.

God created humans as social beings, to be in community with other human beings.  That is why one of the greatest forms of punishment/torture is isolation.  It’s said that people who experience long periods of isolation literally begin to lose their mind.  We need people.  The need for community is not some defect in humanity resulting from the fall, either.  In the beginning, prior to the first act of sin, Adam desired a human companion.  When God presented Eve to him he exclaimed, “At last!” (Genesis 2:23)  Even God Himself concluded that it was not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18).

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FellowshipI often hear it said that “we don’t go to church for people, but for God.”  This is usually said in the context of addressing interpersonal problems at church: “Just because Sister Susie did you wrong, that doesn’t mean you should stop going to church.  God is still there, so you should come to church for Him.”

While I understand the intent behind such a statement, I think it is almost entirely backward.  While it’s true that we go to church for God, the primary purpose for attending a local assembly is for the people present, not for God.  After all, most things we do for God at church – worship, pray, sing, read Scripture – can be done by oneself in the privacy of their home.  What we cannot do by ourselves, however, is experience Christian community and minister to the needs of one another.  We need to assemble with other believers for that – what is commonly called “going to church.”

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