‘From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.’ — Ephesians 4:16
This past year has tested local churches in unique ways. For the first time in the lives of most people, churches have been unable to meet together for long periods of time. Thankfully, technology has enabled much communication and online ministry. But is online preaching and online prayer enough? Can we just close the church buildings and move everything to our sitting rooms and our mobile phones?
Ephesians 4 gives several reasons that we still need to physically be present with other members of the local church:
- Every member ministry – Every member has been given grace and every member has a ministry, not just the pastors and teachers (v.12). Yes, God has given the church certain individuals who are to teach, pastor, and mature the saints, but what about the work that every member is to do to build up the body of Christ? Most online ministry focuses on pastors and teachers maturing the saints but mutual edification of all the members is much more difficult without being together physically. This means a return to meeting together as soon as possible and a determination of local churches to work at ministering to one another outside of online services.
- Maturity – Ministry among the members produces unity, knowledge of Christ, and Christlikeness (v.13).
- Protection from deception – Ministry among the members helps believers to no longer be spiritual children who are easily influenced by every wind of doctrine, by deceptive teachers, and by cunning lies (v.14).
- Christlikeness – Ministry among the members, as they each speak the truth in love to one another, helps each believer to grow up into Christ in all things (v.15).
- Edification in love – Christ has likened His church to a body where every joint and every part is necessary and has a role to play in helping the other parts. Notice in Ephesians 4:16 the emphasis on ‘the whole body’, ‘every joint’, and ‘every part’. This means the whole body needs the whole body. Every member needs every other member. And it is very difficult for the whole body to profit from the whole body if the whole body is not meeting together.
So, Christian don’t think you will be all that Christ wants you to be without the local church. And church don’t think that you don’t need every member. And remember, that when you choose to not be in communication with the other members, not only are you missing out on how others can build you up, you are also depriving other members of your gift that will build them up.
In a time of global pandemic, I am not exactly sure the solution or the right balance, but churches have to find ways to meet together, to minister to one another, and to build one another up. If not, they are very much at risk of disunity, deception, immaturity, and ineffectiveness.