In one of John Stott's last books "The Living Church" he underlines the central importance of God's Church to the work of the Kingdom. In chapter one entitled 'Essentials' he begins:
"I am assuming that we are all committed to the church. We are not only Christian people; we are also church people. We are not only committed to Christ, we are also committed to the body of Christ. At least I hope so. I trust that none of my readers is that grotesque anomaly, an unchurched Christian. The New Testament knows nothing of such a person. For the Church lies at the very centre of the eternal purpose of God. It is not a divine afterthought. It is not an accident of history. On the contrary, the church is God's new community."
This is a message that cannot be over-emphasized at this time and in these 'last' days. In the individualization of society, more and more people are leaving our churches and yet still holding tenuously onto their faith all the time convincing themselves that they are still Christian and still committed to God. Sadly nothing is further from the truth, for to be committed to God is to be committed to the Body of Christ, the church. The work of God is far too important and challenging for God to leave it to individuals. We must resist the pull to cut loose and try and swim outside of the ship which is the church.
This is no new temptation. In the early Church the writer to the Hebrews felt it necessary to write:
"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. " (Hebrews 10:24-25)
And still earlier in the Old Testament the wise words fo Ecclesiastes undergird this important truth:
"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
Those who 'go it alone' will find themselves picked off by the evil one whose tactic is to isolate individuals from the main body of the church. No wonder Augustine once said: "No one can have God as his Father unless he has the Church as his mother".
So be warned. The whole of the teaching of Jesus is predicated on the assumption that Christians will meet together, learn from and encourage one another, and together embark on His mission to "Go, make disciples of all nations.." (Matthew 28:19ff)