Stop Dating the Church
The New Testament goes to great lengths to call sinners to Christ, but it does not stop there. The Christian life involves more than merely being converted, saying a prayer, and off you go. To receive Christ by faith can only come together with repentance; the two ideas are inseparable. In the same way the ideas of personal devotion to Christ and corporate life as the body of Christ are also inseparable.
Throughout the Bible, God deals with his people both individually and corporately. One is never at the expense of the other. Under the Old Covenant, God reveals Himself to the world through His chosen people, Israel. Since Christ established the New Covenant by His death and resurrection, God now reveals Himself to the world through His chosen people, the Church.
The book of Ephesians alone makes clear the centrality of the church to God’s plan for the cosmos (Eph. 2:19-22, for example), to say nothing of Jesus’ declaration to Peter and the apostles that He would, “build my church.” (Matthew 16:18) The Church—we Christ-followers, together as one—is the manifest glory of God in the world. Christ himself Is building us into a temple made of living stones (1 Peter 2:5). So much emphasis is placed on the centrality and unity of the church that one cannot carry the commands of Scripture apart from a committed relationship with the local church. I exhort every person who has been reborn in Christ to stop “dating” the church and instead “marry into” it through church membership.