The most important decision a person will ever make is whether he or she will be devoted to Jesus Christ. And devotion to Jesus cannot be effectively implemented without a devotion to the local church… Without a high view of the church, our understanding of small groups will be pitifully incomplete. – Dave Harvey, Why Small Groups?, page 92.
But I’m concerned that many Christians don’t realize how this most important relationship with God necessitates a number of secondary personal relationships – the relationships that Christ establishes between us and his body – the Church. God doesn’t mean for these to be relationships that we pick and choose at our whim among the many Christians “out there.” He means to establish us in relationship with an actual flesh-and-blood, step-on-your-toes body of people… Why do I worry that if you call yourself a Christian but you are not a member in good standing of the local church you attend, you might be going to hell? Think with me for a moment about what a Christian is. – Mark Dever, What is a Healthy Church?, page 22.
“Lone-Ranger Christians” are a contradiction because becoming a Christian means being united to Christ, and union with Christ expresses itself in union with a local body of believers. It seems to us that in the New Testament, to be excluded from the local church was to be excluded from Christ. This is why the issue of membership is so important… Are you an accountable member of a local church? Not just: Is your name somewhere? But, are you committed to discipline and being disciplined according to biblical standards? Have you publicly declared your willingness to be shepherded and to be led by the leaders of a local church? Do you see yourself and your gifts as part of an organic ministering body? Do you show by your firm attachment to Christ’s body that you are attached to Christ? – John Piper, http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/2008/2989/
Far from being only one of many options for the Christian, the church is the primary means through which God accomplishes His plan in the world (italics in original) . It is His ordained instrument for calling the lost to Himself and the context in which He sanctifies those who are born into His family. Therefore God expects (and even demands) a commitment to the church from everyone who claims to know Him. – Wayne Mack and David Swavely, Life in the Father’s House, page 6.
The New Testament assumes that all Christians will share in the life of a local church, meeting with it for worship (Hebrews 10:25), accepting its nurture and discipline (Matthew 18:15-20; Galatians 6:1), and sharing in its work of witness. Christians disobey God and impoverish themselves by refusing to join with other believers when there is a local congregation that they can belong to. – J.I. Packer, Concise Theology, page 202.
The Lord esteems the communion of his church so highly that he counts as a traitor and apostate from Christianity anyone who arrogantly leaves any Christian society, provided it cherishes the true ministry of Word and sacraments. – John Calvin, quoted in Life in the Father’s House, page 5.
Your pastors will stand before God and give an account for how they have led your congregation (Hebrews 13:17). But every single one of us who is a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ will give and account for whether or not we have gathered together regularly with the church, spurred the church on to love and good deeds, and fought to maintain a right teaching of the hope of the gospel (Hebrews 10:23-25). – Mark Dever, What is a Healthy Church?, page 16.