At 16 years old I went from disbelieving in God to Baptizing every dude I knew. Pretty quickly we started a make-shift bible Study on the ground at a gas stations by Gresham High School at lunch time. After school we would drive kids to youth group, packing them well beyond capacity in my dads astro-van illegally. I should have been arrested.
Why were we living this way?
As former non-christian dudes we discovered the secret being kept from us was the beauty of the local Church.
Why does the local church matter?
THE CHURCH IS GOD’S PLAN A AND THERE IS NO PLAN B.
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
It’s not good for you to be alone.
One of the hardest seasons of my life was living in Sacramento California, I didn’t know anyone and no one really knew me. We weren’t meant to be alone. Not only did God put Adam in marriage but he put us in the Church. This is, by design what you and I were created for: relationship. Why?
God is a communal God in that HE is eternally existent as Father, Son, and Spirit: a community in his very essence. So, when he made human beings in his image he made us for community. God created us for is permanent relationship with a multitude of others--fulfilled now in the Church.
God calls a person to become a people.
 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.  And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.
God's plan from Genesis to Revelation was to gather a people for himself. He began with Abraham, brought about Israel, and ultimately included gentiles in the people of God called the Church.
In an individualistic culture, we often think of God's plan for "our" lives. And while God has a specific plan for you and I, he has been planning from the beginning to weave our story with the story of a whole multitude of other people.
God’s intention was always for a multitude.
 And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.”  And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”  And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
Consider the enormity of this people. This is a people that outnumbers the stars. It starts with Israel but goes far beyond Israel to the Church. So, God gifted Abraham a promise that goes beyond himself. We too need to see how God gifts us not for us alone but for others.
Do you ever wonder why God gave you your gifts? To participate in scattering his Gospel until those reached are as many as the stars. How could you leverage your life to build up the Church and advance God's Kingdom? We often think of God's blessing terminating on us. But he intends to bless you with giftedness to use you so that through you he might build his church.
But maybe you think this is some Old Testament stuff that could be brushed aside by the teaching of the New Testament. Was God just seeking to bring about this people back then but transitions to focus on your personal walk with him in the New Testament? No way. While our personal walk with Jesus matters, Jesus seems to be passionate about his disciples advancing the Church.
JESUS BUILDS HIS CHURCH.
 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
If you don’t have chills right now you’re not paying attention. Peter confesses faith, and Jesus tells him he’s going to build his church and the gates of hell won’t stop it. And if Jesus is that zealous for the Church, we who follow him must be passionate about it as well!
The fulfillment of God’s promise is an unstoppable, irreplaceable force called the Church.
If you’re not part of a church you’re missing out on a BIG part of God’s plan for your life.
Students and Young Adults sometimes ask me: what’s God’s plan for me? Here’s a part I’m sure of, YOU need the church.
Even if you are a part of groups like young life, YWAM, Inter-varsity, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, or Cru, Alpha, a bible study, a few believers that do life together organically, or all the rest—I think that can be very good—but it cannot replace the Church.
You need to plug into the local church.
My bible college demanded that students plugged into a local church and it was the best thing they ever did for me. Christians in every stage of life are called to plug into the Church.
You can’t live differently without the local church.
 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”  So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
3,000 people believe the Gospel and get saved. They are told to save themselves from the crooked generation they were in. And in verse 42 we find out that to save yourself from this crooked generation is inextricably linked to being a part of the Church.
You are in a crooked generation too. The way live differently from it is to get permanently plugged into the Church. Time and time again I’ve seen Christians leave the church, and it’s the last wrong step before their decision to leave the faith.
The one season of my life as a Christian where I fell away and lived in sin was a season when I left the church. God designed the Church to be our means of growth and sanctification. It's where we stay steadfast and mature in our walks with Jesus.
What does a healthy church look like?
So, by now you're hopefully convinced by scripture of the value and necessity of the Church. The question is what kind of local church should I go to? Here are some descriptions of the early Church that may be helpful in deciphering this. This is the kind of church Rise seeks to be and any church that looks like this is healthy and one we would support.
Maybe you're going to college next year and need to find a church there. Maybe you're family is moving and you need to find a church then. These are key marks of a healthy church from scripture.
Acts 2:42–47  And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
A bible-believing, bible teaching church, where the leadership is constantly talking about Jesus. This is a church that doesn't elevate man's opinion but submits to the Scripture. It's a church that creates a culture where the bible is read, believed, and lives out. And as a result of a bible culture it's a culture that loves and centers on the main theme of Scripture: The Gospel!
Acts 2:43  And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.
A church where life change is happening, and they believe the Holy Spirit is still working. Where you are genuinely challenged to grow as a disciple of Jesus personally. In otherwords, this is a church where you feel challenged to change, grow, and develop spiritually. You are renewing your mind in Scripture and there is a culture of discipleship that makes you want to grow. There are practical steps that the church offers for you to continue growing such as groups, classes, and serving opportunities.
Acts 2:44-46  And all who believed were together and had all things in common.  And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts...
A church where you can get plugged into a group, bible study, or serve. You want to be an active part of the church. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big church where you never meet the pastors or smaller one where everyone knows everyone, but you want to be able to plug in to a small group and contribute serving as God has gifted you.
04. LOST-SEEKING CHURCH.
Acts 2:47  praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
A church that loves outsiders and is growing. Again this doesn’t mean church is huge or baptizes a zillion people. It means that this church wants to grow and reach people far from God recognizing that JESUS is a friend of sinners.
COMMON OBJECTIONS TO THE CHURCH.
"What if there aren't good churches around me?"
Now, I say all this to describe a healthy church, but the point is not to critique your church because it’s not perfect in all of these areas. Spoiler alert: you can search the world for a perfect church, but the second you join it it’s ruined. Because YOU aren’t perfect.
My wife and I started our marriage at a small church. But the believers loved Jesus. The pastor preached Jesus. The bible studies were boring but challenged me to grow as a disciple. The communion moved me. The worship, as dorky as it was, stirred my soul to sing to King Jesus.
"But I've been hurt by the Church."
Remember that you can’t be hurt by the Church. The Church didn’t hurt you. A pastor did, a Christian did, or a group of Christians did. There are other churches. And to avoid them all is a natural response to a real problem and yet it’s not the solution you need. The solution you need is to find a healthy church. We can’t say we love Jesus but not the church because JESUS died for the Church. Find one. Plug in.
I’ve had Christians wrong me in serious ways at churches. But nonetheless I’ve given my entire life not only to the Church but to serve and lead in the local church. Why? Because Jesus DIED for the Church and I follow him.