Don’t Divorce Christ

I love the local church. From Acts 2 to Revelation 3, the Bible is about the local church, written to the local church, or written in the context of the local church. 

God gave us the local church as his plan A for his mission on earth, and he did not give us a plan B. The local church is just that important.

Please don’t say that the church is the people of God and not a building. Yes, the people of God are the church, but they are commanded to gather (and it’s usually in a building) and to be in fellowship with one another. Don’t use that metaphor as an excuse to skip church. 

Please don’t communicate to your children that it’s okay to skip church. To take a break. To participate in Sunday sports. To go on vacation (most vacation spots have churches). They will know where your priority is. They will demonstrate a similar priority in their adolescent and adult years. They will not need the church. They will not need God. 

Please don’t use the local church to get your perceived needs met. Your style of music. Your programs. Your ministries. Your schedule. 

Please don’t say the church is about sending, not attending. It’s not either/or. It’s both/and. The Bible commands us to send. And the Bible commands us to gather.

Please don’t say you don’t go to church because it’s full of hypocrites. Yes, it is full of hypocrites. We are called sinners. But we are sinners forgiven by Christ’s death on the cross. We are living examples of the power of the gospel. Not perfect. Just perfectly forgiven. 

Please don’t use the slightest excuse to skip church. Bad weather. Good weather. Not enough sleep. Too much sleep. Upset stomach. But not too upset to play golf. 

Please don’t say that this short missive is legalistic. It is not legalistic. It is biblical. It is about commitment. 

I love the metaphor that says clearly we, the church, are the bride of Christ. Read Ephesians 5:25-30. We, the local church, are indeed the bride and Christ is the bridegroom. 

And if we are waning in our commitment to the local church, we are waning in our commitment to the marriage between us, the church, and Christ. 

Please don’t minimize the importance of the local church. 

Please don’t divorce Christ, the bridegroom. 

The local church is just that important.

Posted on May 8, 2023

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Tracy Danielson says on

    Perhaps there isn’t a notification process for comments after the article has been out for a while. I was hoping for some feedback on my previous comment. I’ll post this and wait patiently. Maybe I could post on something more current.

    Church hypocrisy may be more of an impediment to spiritual growth than is generally considered.

    It shouldn’t be the responsibility of the church visitors to find their place in the church. The staff and members are the ones familiar with the church’s doctrine structure and social settings. The responsibility should fall on leadership and how they delegate. Training and teaching is so important.

    I think it’s humorous when someone is greeted at the door with, “How was your week?” If they cared about the person, they’d be part of their week. They wouldn’t have to ask. This especially applies to small churches.

    What if the reason Christians don’t want hypocrites in the church to be confronted, is because they themselves are hypocrites and don’t want the light on them?

    The term, “Preaching to the choir” may be a negative in that it is suggesting that they don’t get challenged enough and may need to expand their audience. It may also mean that the listener has stopped thinking critically and truly examining what is taught.

    I noted that the article discouraged picking a church based on style, while a comment below encouraged it.

    I struggle with attending church. I don’t see it as me divorcing the church, I see it as the church becoming indifferent to me.

    Here is my solution: Along with sound salvation doctrine, a healthy church would address grievances; all the way to the open assembly if necessary.

    It’s hard to criticize and not look harsh. I hope I did alright.


  • For the past six years I’ve been caring for my wife who has Frontotemporal Dementia. My attempts to relate to the church have been consistent and diligent. My experiences with church may have unique elements.
    When I’m told there’s no such thing as the perfect church or that the church is made up of humans, I see that as a superficial response. It seems to excuse and enable very bad allows church members to gossip, backbite and poison relationships with impunity. When they refuse to follow scripture, the person who recommends following the Bible is often vilified.
    The next step for me has been for the church to reject me and as a matter of course, my wife. My wife has no say in the matter.
    To suggest that the blame is on the believer who sees the flaws is cruel. Unless you can account how they failed, it’s speculation. To label someone a “faultfinder” or church butterfly is shallow and possibly a judgement made out of ignorance. One would need to be familiar with the facts, and Christians rarely want to hear the details. I know this from experience, and again, I have been diligent and as honorable as I could be in dealing with cliques and sins against church members.
    The other problem being that church leadership doesn’t answer questions or address issues of conflict. They don’t follow Matt 28:15-17 in dealing with sin. Knowing there are grievances, they continue to take communion. That has been my experience every time.
    I would appreciate a more detailed solution for those who are sensitive to sin against God. Some people don’t lie about their faith and sincerely seek fellowship that is, though not perfect, would be a fellowship that they could be comfortable in inviting others to attend. Some people are comfortable with repentance and struggle with people who profess Christianity yet will stand strong even when their lies are exposed.
    Interesting discussion and vital topic.


  • Belinda says on

    Thank you for the reminder

  • Shared this with some young adults, 20’s and early 30’s. It did not go over too well. I’m a pastor so naturally, I liked it and wanted feedback. They thought it was a bit in your face. Go figure….

  • Spot-on! Thank you for writing this!

  • Dr. Thom, thank you for writing the truth in love. We all know you are speaking to the “choir” for the most part. May we listen with our eyes and be so bold to encourage others in the same manner as you have communicated. Thanks for cheering us on!

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Thank you, Vic. I would be surprised if all of my readers agree with this article. We are saddened at times to hear from church members who are only lightly committed to their local churches.

  • Katherine Vanderfin says on

    Dear Tom;
    What about people who cannot find a church, due to unwelcoming and back turning, after an initial first or second attendance greetin in a whole lot of churches. I’m referring to actual purposeful avoiding. The churches I have attended, have their friendships established. When I have attempted, suggesting to women about having a coffee, tea, chatting to get to know one another; they sometimes reciprocate. However, meeting “does not” occur. This is reoccurring time and again. I am a single lady. I’m getting in my spirit,; by God’s Spirit, “There is a place where I will be received.” I have had to cling to “Jesus”, tightly, due to loneliness of no fellowship. “God”, does take the pain, rejection, exclusion; and turn it into a closeness and reliance upon Him, I firmly believe was birthed out of loneliness. I say, “JESUS”, is my Glue! Another blessing,, “God”, my heart has opened up more fully, to a hurting and rejected people. Sometimes I meet people that were touched just by another person being kind to them. It feels like, it’s my pain. I tell them about there being “One, Who truly loves them and will embrace them, without Judgement.” “JESUS” ❤️ HE willingly took a punishment that wasn’t His. And died on a ✝️.
    I’m not sure why I wrote this; except for this reason; I had a prompting deep within. Maybe, because, unless someone experiences these things; I don’t believe most realize, how many lonely and rejected people are in the world. I do know this, it takes experiencing this yourself. And at some point you say; “Lord, I know I’m not the only one. Please open my heart to those feeling broken, hopeless, alienated. Those that don’t know their valuable to someone.” “YOU,,,JESUS!”
    Hallelujah. Amen!

    • (Not Thom)
      A few points for reflection. I get your difficulty finding a place to call your church home. Because people are involved makes it difficult to “get in” at times.

      * If you aren’t tied to a denomination or convention (Baptist, Pentecostal, etc.) my advice would be to keep trying new churches until one sticks.

      * While many pastors aren’t as forthcoming as I try to be, if you are looking for a certain type/style of worship you can ask the Pastor of a church you visit. When we have newcomers I invite them to stay and get a real impression of the church. One Sunday really can’t do that. If they decide that St. John’s isn’t the place they feel called to worship I invite them to tell me what they are looking for and I will try to point them toward a church which fits their style/desire.

      * If you don’t feel welcome it can be helpful to ask “why?” Especially if, after numerous churches “miss” the mark, it may be worthwhile to consider what you are looking for. You say the people you engage don’t meet you where you are, maybe you can meet them where they are. Is there a time and place which is convenient for both of you to meet and get to know each other? There are lots of stories where Jesus went to the person he healed (the beggar at the pool, the man born blind, etc.) to get to know them where and how they were.

  • Thank you for this reminder. Is it possible to post this on our Church Facebook page?

  • Barry Carroll says on

    Wow! Yo! Everyone with anticipation would hurry to church if they knew their God-given place IN the church and community… i.e. their God-given Passion, their God-given Spiritual Gifts, and their God-given Personality Style. People who Discover their Spiritual DNA cannot be stopped from serving, and not by a team of horses pulling in the opposite direction. I am differentiating from those 50-, 75, and 100-question Spiritual Gift tests that may help you to know what you may do well by the grace of God. I am talking about walking thru a process that becomes the second-best day of their life. (of course, No.1 is understanding Christ died for us)

  • Incredible! Thank you, Dr. Rainer!

  • William A. Secrest says on

    All I can say is, “Amen.” Most of the decisions that we make in our lives have to do with
    what we are committed to already.

  • Thank you for wonderful comment on the value of the local church