“‘Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” Revelation 19:7–9

You have often heard that going to church would be great if it were not for having to deal with the church people. Many unsaved people excuse themselves from going to church by saying, “the church is filled with hypocrites.” I ask, “Is there a better place for hypocrites to learn to correct their ways?” “Holding fast the faithful Word as has been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Titus 1:9). Others have said they can’t find the “perfect church.” But one smart wag observed that if those people found the perfect church and joined, their very presence would cause the church to cease to be perfect!

If the very best church were identifiable, you would find that it too is filled with fallen men. Even though steps have been taken to see to it that all members have professed and possessed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are, at best, redeemed sinners. The reality is that, on this side of eternity, we are all awaiting perfection when Christ raptures the church away at the end of the Age of Grace. The situation among the churches today is no different than it was in the first century AD. A serious Christian does not have to look long or hard to detect that not all saints are “saintly,” even in the positions of leadership. If a godly Christian encounters tolerated sin within the church often enough he may grow jaundiced in his view of organized church, and local churches in particular. The Christian is sorely tempted to “pick up his marbles and go home.” He will insulate himself from further offense by absenting himself from among the brethren and join the television audience of a famous preacher. He might think to himself, “It is more than enough aggravation to have to do battle with the unsaved bad-actors in the work-a-day world every day; why subject myself to the ‘death by a thousand cuts’ that comes from active involvement in a troubled local church?”

Has God released believers from His directive to join together in a local church? Hebrews 10:24f states, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Has God superseded the model of the church in fulfilling the Great Commission with some other plan? Matthew 28:18ff states, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…,” and Acts 1:8 states, “but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witness to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Has the local church been removed from its responsibility to be the pillar and ground of truth? 1 Timothy 3:15 states, “I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”

Has God revealed orders to “repeal and replace” His dispensation of the Church Age with the para-church age? Colossians 1:26–29 states, “The mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints…among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you the hope of glory.”

No, no, no, and no. The church, particularly the local church, is God’s instrument in this age to glorify Him. Your primary outlet for your God-given talents and fruit of the Spirit is still the local church. Removing yourself from church and denying the primacy of the local church severely stunts your usefulness to the world, in general, and especially the local church, in particular.

Logically speaking, no media evangelist, no matter how gifted to teach you from a distance, will counsel you in a private matter at length, will visit you in the hospital, or will honor your testimony to your unsaved relatives when you are buried. But by your integral involvement as a member of the brethren you will be sharpened, chastened, equipped, blessed, and useful in the practical matters the Spirit of God is seeking to accomplish through you in the corporate body of Christ, the local church. In Ephesians 4:11–16, Paul declares, “Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”

The primary place for you to exercise the Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) is your local church. Life is always messy and living among the saints in a local church is no different. First, determine if God would have you in your local church. If so, redouble your efforts to effectively display God’s grace in your church, no matter how difficult. If Satan cannot have you by stealing your salvation, he desires to “shelve” you by draining your spiritual life of usefulness among the brethren. By God’s grace, do not let him win. Trust and obey.