Tim Kerr, Pastor of Sovereign Grace Church, a recent church plant in Toronto affiliated with Sovereign Grace Ministries, recently came to the home church of my wife and I, Hespeler Baptist Church in Cambridge. He shared a burden of his heart in the area of discipleship and mentoring. A comment caught my attention. I do not have it verbatim but the gist of it was, your spirituality is tied to the local church. Now readers of my personal blog, will know that the concept of the local church is of incredible importance to me. My three post series on The Primacy of the Local Church, there have been the culmination of strong teaching on the topic while I was in seminary, and much thought about the subject including living it out in the context of the church. My clarion call in much of my preaching on the local church is “the local church is God’s vehicle for accomplishing His will in this age.” The church is primary. Every believer should be an active part of a local church.
Yet, we live in a day and age when spirituality is viewed in very personal terms. My spiritual relationship is good when my personal relationship with God is good. My relationship with God is good when I am doing my personal Bible study and prayer. There is no concept that your spirituality might be affected by your body life, that is your relationship to the local church. The crux passage on this issue in my mind is Ephesians 4:11-16.
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Here Paul is informing the Ephesian church about gifting noting that there were those in the church that had been given specific roles by their gifting from God with the express purpose of building up the faith of the church. These people were designed to teach the people so they knew what the Word said and would not be deceived by untruth but embrace the truth of the Scriptures. The capstone though is that there is a focus on growing in Christ as a body. Each part is necessary for the church to grow. Nowhere here does it say that we grow in our faith in Christ alone. We grow in our faith in Christ in the context of the body of Christ. The body of Christ, the local church, is necessary in the life of the believer for growing in faith and godliness. We were never meant to go it alone. We were always meant to be part of the church of Jesus Christ. And you cannot grow spiritually apart from that which Christ died for, the church!
When thinking about spirituality, let us never divorce what we need to grow in Christ from the local church. The local church is the place we grow in Christ as we learn, study, serve, and fellowship. So, the spiritual thermometer of your life should never just be about what you do alone with Christ. It should be what you do with Christ in His body. How you live with other believers, how you treat the local church, how you serve it, that is how you will grow in your spirituality. Christian spirituality IS local church spirituality.