In the landscape of modern Christianity, high-profile leadership scandals, the rise of the deconstruction movement (often seen as an admired badge of honor), and a cultural ethos of victimization leading to excuse-ism have collectively driven a wedge between many individuals and God’s design for the church. What is disconcerting is not just the abandonment of church by some; it is the sense of justification and superiority felt by those who have chosen to disengage.  

Elton Trueblood, a prominent 20th-century author, theologian, and former chaplain of Harvard and Stanford Universities, articulated a sentiment that resonates with our current Christian milieu:

“Perhaps the greatest single weakness of the contemporary Christian church is that millions of supposed members are not really involved at all, and what is worse, do not think it strange that they are not.”

From a biblical perspective, the church is central to God’s eternal purpose. The New Testament consistently portrays Jesus as actively building His church, which is intricately connected to His redemptive plan (Matthew 16:18, Ephesians 1:22-32, 2:19-22, 4:1-16, Colossians 2:19). The church is depicted as the eternal bride of Jesus demonstrating His “many sided wisdom” to the world around them (Ephesians 3:10-11).  At the same time she is being prepared for the ultimate culmination of His return—the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb” (Ephesians 5:22-32, Revelation 19:6-10, 21:2-11). In the grand scheme of eternity, only Jesus and His church endure, underlining the essential role designed for the church in our lives.


In contemplating the current attitude toward Jesus’ church and the future for those earnestly pursuing God’s purpose for her, parallels can be drawn to the famous opening lines of Star Trek:

“Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: To explore strange new worlds…To seek out new life and new civilizations…TO BOLDLY GO WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE BEFORE…”

For those committed to God’s design for His church, it’s akin to embarking on a mission, “boldly going where no man has gone before” —CONTINUING TO PURSUE THE NEW TESTAMENT DESIGN OF JESUS’ CHURCH.  This mission involves joining together in committed relationships with Jesus and His family, actively engaging God’s mission to expand His Kingdom daily.

Every follower of Jesus is designed to participate actively in God’s process—”being built upon Jesus Christ and being built together with other Christians as part of His church.  As they participate in this, they are “built up” to engage in His mission to the earth (Ephesians 2:19-22, 4:1-16, Colossians 2:19,  Romans 12:1-16, 1 Peter 2:1-10).  This is the Biblical context of the church.  Of the 114 times the word is used in the New Testament, 96 are in the context of identifiable groups of His people engaged in His building process. 

Biblical Christianity entails both believing and belonging. We are called not just to believe in and walk in a relationship with Jesus but also to actively and practically belong to the family of God, Jesus, and His body—the church. WHILE OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST IS PERSONAL, IT WAS NEVER INTENDED TO BE PRIVATE!!!!  Jesus initiated this process with twelve and the seventy while on earth, and it continues from His ascended position in heaven.  

Ephesians 2:19 (ERV) captures this essence: “You are like a building that God owns.  That building was built on the foundation…Christ Jesus Himself is the most important stone…In Christ, you are being built together with His other people.  You are being made into a place where God lives through the Spirit.” 

In the context of American Christianity, the cultural ideals of “independence” and “individualism” have infiltrated the church, leading to the misconception that walking with Jesus excludes walking with His people. However, God’s plan is for Christians to walk with Jesus (the Head) and His church (the body). To envision a relationship with Jesus while sidelining His church is spiritually akin to wanting a connection with a head without involving the rest of the body—a concept that sounds peculiar and spiritually counterintuitive.  Understanding that we were formed for God’s family, it’s time to participate actively.

Six reasons God has designed us to be active members of God’s family, the local church?

We all need relationships.  Even in the sinless environment of Eden, God declared, “It is not good for man to be alone.”  We were created for relationships and community.  The Bible knows nothing of solitary saints or spiritual hermits. Biblical church membership means being a vital organ of a living body, an indispensable, interconnected part of the Body of Christ.  Our cultural idea of church membership has reduced it to simply adding your name to a roll, with no requirements or expectations.

For organs to fulfill their purpose, they must be connected to the body.  This is true both naturally and spiritually.  Biblically speaking, why has God designed us in the way that we need to be part of the church family?

Membership helps identify you as a genuine follower of Jesus:  Being part of a church family is a visible marker of genuine belief. Jesus asserted that our “love for one another will prove you are My disciples” (John 13:34-35). This love for “one another” is expressed within the community of a church family.  It is highlighted in the continual use of the Greek word “One Another” in the NT letters to churches (used 101 times) and speaks of His design for our family life together.

Involvement in a Church Family moves you out of self-centered isolation:  The local church is the classroom for learning His type of love as we get along with God’s family.  We often know John 3:16, but we don’t often know 1 John 3:16, which says, “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay our life down for our brothers.”  You cannot learn and practice the love of the brethren if you are not practically built together with them.

Growth and Maturity: The church family provides God’s designed personal growth and maturity environment. Ephesians 4:16 emphasizes that each part, actively engaged, contributes to the health and growth of the whole body. It is easy to fool ourselves into thinking we are mature if our self-centeredness is not challenged.  Real maturity is developed in relationships.  We need the accountability and demand of serving others that only comes through being a committed part of the church.

Isolation breeds deceitfulness:  Active participation in a church community fosters real maturity by providing accountability and protection against straying from the truth (Hebrews 3:13, 10:19-25). Being related to a local church provides the spiritual protection of Godly leaders and fellow Christians who help keep us from straying from the truth (James 5:16).

The Church needs you. Being part of a church family allows each individual’s unique gifts and abilities to benefit others. We are designed to function together, and joining with others enables us to experience the fullness of how God has uniquely made each of us.

Sharing in Christ’s mission as His family/body: Just as Jesus’ physical body was the instrument for God’s mission during His earthly ministry, the church, as the spiritual body of Christ, continues this mission on earth (Ephesians 3:11-13).  We are the continued part of that Heavenly family on earth, carrying out Jesus’ mission on the earth.

In conclusion, awakening to God’s design involves understanding the church not as a passive institution but as a vibrant and essential part of our Christian journey. In the current challenges and imperfections, may all of God’s people wake up to His design to function as members of His church and commit themselves to be “members one of another” (Romans 12:5, Ephesians 4:25) as Jesus builds His church.