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The Plight of Churchless Christians | The Cripplegate

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1 Cor 12:13
13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or
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OCTOBER 10, 2018

The Plight of Churchless

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by Eric Davis

Sadly, it’s become
a norm within


Incredibly, it’s a
regular thing amid
it’s widely
accepted among
many professing
Christians. “I’m a Christian, but I don’t really go to church.”
Churchless Christians. Flockless sheep. Bodyless body-parts.
First century Christians would not have had a category for such a

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thing. It would’ve been one of the more bizarre phenomena

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from a New Testament church. “We’ve been burned.” “We’re still

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looking.” “We do church on our own.” “There’s no verse that says I
need to go to church.” “I haven’t found a good fit.” “I’m too busy.” You

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could cite more. This is something that we should lament as the family


of Christ. It’s no small matter. I’m not referring to Christians who

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would love to plug into a local church, but are prevented by trying

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circumstances (e.g. debilitating health, imprisonment, a persecuted


country, serving in the armed forces, etc.). This is speaking of those
If God desires all to be saved then

who are able but will not.

why aren’t they? (in 500 words)
So, is it inconsequential for the professing believer to remain a
flockless sheep? What becomes of them? Does the Bible give any
outlook for them? In fact, the outlook is bad. With that, here are a few
consequences for those who insist on remaining churchless Christians.
1. You become unnecessarily unequipped.
In one of the greatest church epistles, Paul lays down a preeminent
purpose for leadership in the local church:
[T]o equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the
body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the
knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of
the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:12-13


Christians need the local church because they need qualified
leadership to equip them for ministry. Why? So that God’s people
receive the immense privilege and need of building up from other
equipped Christians. However, when professing believers remain
body-less, they, for the most part, remain equipped-less.

Sure, they can get equipped to a certain extent through churchless
Christianity, but only in a limited way. It’s like the guy who thinks he’s


getting exercise, but won’t join a gym, and instead built his kitchen
fifty hundred yards from his TV room. Sure, he’s getting some exercise
by trotting fifty hundred yards every time he craves some Flamin’ Hot

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Cheetos, but he’s not going to be doing a triathlon anytime soon.
Flockless sheep will get equipped as much as that guy will get in




They can comfort


themselves by


thinking they’re
equipped as they

Local Church Ministry

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read Christian



books, listen to
sermons, attend


conferences, and


the like. But they
deceive themselves if they think they’re actually getting obediently

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equipped God’s way. Why? They are not applying what they
studying/hearing/reading in the context of a New Testament church; a
doctrinally-sound fellowship of regenerate individuals physically


present and committed to one another to practice the one anothers,
get equipped, equip others, and express joyful accountability under
biblically qualified leadership. This is how God designed Christians to
work. There is no plan B here. For that reason, a Christian who works
fifty hours per week, serves a few hours every other week in his
church, reads his Bible most days, reads a few Christians books per
year with his church, faithfully attends Sunday worship gatherings and

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a home group, and is fairly teachable—he is far more equipped than
the churchless Christian who devours good Christian books monthly,
attends conferences, and can articulate all the doctrinal controversies.

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They don’t have the skill in coming alongside those who are suffering

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like the churched Christian. They lack the ability to compassionately

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apply doctrine to the hurting and hopeless. They are deficient in the
skill of gently rebuking a straying sheep. They lack the ability to

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helpfully walk couples through premarital counseling and postmarital

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conflict. They are not equipped in how to obey our Lord’s great desire
for unity of the Spirit among the local fellowship. And they certainly
are deficient in the skill of humbly walking individuals through the
sacred process of church discipline.

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Flockless sheep are needlessly ill-equipped; they have this in common
to one degree or another. I’ve met some churchless Christians who

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know a lot of Bible (and pride themselves upon it). But Bible
knowledge is only a small fraction of what constitutes a well-equipped
Christian. God’s wonderful design is for his children to get thoroughly
equipped in the context of vibrant local church life.

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2. You deprive the body of Christ.
In his wonderful kindness, God the Holy Spirit endows every Christian
with spiritual gifts. Regeneration, spiritual life, and intimate

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fellowship with God are not the only benefits to the Spirit’s indwelling.
He empowers us with these unique spiritual abilities. Whether you are

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a brand-new believer, a stay-at-home mom, a pastor, business

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executive, teenager, or seasoned saint, the Holy Spirit has given you

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unique gifts to pour back into the body.
True or False?
Referring to spiritual gifts, Scripture teaches:
“But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to
each one individually just as he wills” (1 Cor. 12:12


God has targeted every one of his blood-bought children for this high
privilege. But, notice, the gifts are not for our own enjoyment:
“But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the
common good” (1 Cor. 12:7

With great privilege comes great
responsibility. So it is with the
spiritual gifts every Christian
receives. What is the responsibility?
“[F]or the common good.” In the
context of 1 Corinthians 12, this
means that spiritual gifts are for the
building up of the body of Christ.
The apostle Paul will continue in the
passage to speak of the interresponsibility that Christians have
for one another in light of these

“For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, ‘Because
I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason
any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, ‘Because I am not
an eye, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the
less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would
the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of
smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in
the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where
would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body.
And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again
the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you’” (1 Cor. 12:14-21


God saves Christians to become inter-responsible for other Christians
within his cherished organism; the body of Christ. In other words, God
saves Christians to be churched. If you’ve put faith alone in Christ
alone for right standing with God, you are a Christian. Metaphorically,

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you are a body part of the larger body of Christ. Lungs have
responsibility to the stomach, the kidneys, the heart, the brain, and
extremities. Hands have responsibilities to other parts. Every body
part has a responsibility to other body parts. “Well, I am a part of the
global body, so, I don’t need to express that in a local body.” Do you
say that in regards to your family? “I’m a part of my family, so I never
need to be present with them.” What if your eye said that. “I’m a body
part in general, so, I don’t feel the need to express that in a particular
body.” Being a part of something means you express it visibly and
locally. Those who refuse, end up depriving other Christians of their
God-given endowments.
3. You become unnecessarily awkward.
I have yet to meet a flockless sheep who is not unnecessarily awkward
in their social-spiritual mannerisms. It presents in a number of ways.
Maybe they are needlessly abrasive. Or they become hyperintrospective. Or they have unnecessarily stunted social skills. Or
everyone is wrong except for them. Or they develop a martyr’s
complex, where they suppose that all who come alongside them are
Why does this
happen? Simple.
They cut
themselves off
from God’s means
of refining grace.
They are
abrasive because
they do not have
spiritually mature
saints coming alongside them to teach them tact and gentleness. They
become hyper-introspective because they do not have a local church
family to whom they focus ministry and time. They have unnecessarily
stunted social skills because they are not learning to develop socially
by practicing the one anothers to a diversity of people in a church. And
by depriving themselves of by regular feeding through preaching, they
miss that which rounds out Christian character.
There is a sense in which mature Christians will appear a bit awkward
to the world. They talk about the risen Christ. They tell others to turn
from the world and to him. They love this 2000-year-old book that

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tells them to deny certain passions. They believe in eternal heaven and
hell. It’s a good thing to be seen as a tad weird because of those things.
But, flockless sheep become awkward and weird, and not in a good
way. Churchless Christians should not flatter themselves thinking that
they are being persecuted for righteousness when people are
concerned about their awkwardness. It’s a bad kind of weird; the kind
that results from refusing to plug into the body of Christ.
“Well, people would have thought that Ezekiel was pretty weird, too,
so I’m in good company.” You’re not Ezekiel, my friend.
4. You misrepresent God’s grand plan of salvation.
God’s plan for the universe is so wonderful. Think of it. Prior to
creating this universe, he had the delight in his heart to architect a
plan to save a people for himself. The triune God has loving unity
within himself to carry out the extensive work to do it. Human beings,
a creature far, far below him in glory and greatness, will be the object
of his loving plan. He creates the universe and it declares his glory.
Then, he enters creation by taking on creation: he takes on human
form. He lives among people who, for the most part, shamefully reject
him. But, he uses it for good—the greatest good—by deliberately
receiving the wrath due their sins. He rises from the grave, ascends to
heaven, and reigns. There, he is continually saving his people from
every tribe, language, and nation. Moved with delight in his heart for
his ill-deserving people, he showers them with extravagant kindness in
salvation; a kindness which will last and increase throughout eternity.
God’s plan is to redeem a people for himself.
However, flockless
sheep mar this
grand plan. They
misrepresent and
pervert the great
redemptive plan of
God. It’s always
been about saving a
multitude of
peoples; a
multitude in age,
background, and the like. However, by refusing to plug into a church,
you make it all about you. Instead of, “Let the nations be glad and sing
for joy” (Ps. 67:4

), it’s, “Let me, myself, and I be glad.” Instead of,

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“Make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19


), it’s, “Make a disciple

of me, myself, and I.” Instead of, “…a great multitude which no one
could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues,
standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white
robes” (Rev. 7:9

), it’s, “Me by myself hanging out before the

throne.” Therefore, those who insist on remaining churchless
Christians radically mar God’s manifold redemptive plan.
5. You are a terrible witness to the unbelieving world.
Again, God’s plan is to save a people. Christ came to redeem a
multitude from every nation and ethnicity. The beauty of God’s plan is
when very different people come together in love and worship under
the lordship of Jesus Christ. Thus, the unity they share becomes a
powerful witness to the lost. How can people with such socioeconomic, physical, ethnic, occupational, and recreational differences
have such joyful unity together? That’s what the world sees in the New
Testament Church. Further, the love we extend towards one another
says something powerful about the Savior we serve:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even
as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men
will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another”
(John 13:34-35


“…that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in
You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that
You sent Me” (John 17:21


You simply cannot do what Jesus is teaching as a flockless sheep. And
because you cannot, you are a bad witness to the world.
6. You are probably not regenerate.
Often, a flockless sheep is actually a goat. Those who persist in
detachment from a New Testament church evidence that they are not
regenerate. A kidney removed from a body is likely a dead kidney.
“Are you saying that going to church earns my way into righteous
standing with God?” Not at all (cf. Rom. 3:21-28

). However,

involvement in a local church does evidence one’s regeneration.
The Holy Spirit indwells every regenerate individual. As such, he
moves Christians to hearty involvement with one another under the
accountability of other Spirit-indwelt people. It’s what living body

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parts do. Christians love to be involved meaningfully with other
Christians for biblical preaching, leadership accountability, and
consistent one anothering.
In remaining a churchless Christian, you potentially forbid yourself
from entering eternal life. It’s doubtful that someone who persists in
refusal to plug into a local church is regenerate. But the good news is,
the Lord Jesus Christ loves you. He is a God full of grace and mercy.
And he has demonstrated it by leaving the glories of heaven to enter
the horrors of our sin. God held him accountable for your sin, and that
in full. He rose and reigns. If you would bow and surrender in faith
under his lordship, God will allow you to be justified by faith alone and
enter into his eternal family. There is no greater joy.
There are more plights for the churchless Christian. But these are
enough to forsake the phenomenon and embrace God’s passion for his
blood-bought church.



in Local Church Ministry, Shepherding with 51 Comments


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Sort by Oldest

Twinkle • 14 days ago

um-hum. Sure. It's all recalcitrant Christians refusing to go to
church. It couldn't have anything to do with the churches
themselves because ---- oooh, Christians ARE the church. Slick
excuse for the failure of leadership and discipleship. Do you
know how disheartening it is to attend a church week after
week and still have no fellowship? Do you have any idea how
many little churches are little clubs for a few extended families
and their chums? All across the country. I'm a travel nurse and
I've seen it. There's more reasons, but there's as much point in
discussing it as there is in going to many, many churches.
• Share ›


Matt Mumma

Twinkle • 14 days ago

Hi Twinkle,
Eric was not saying that churches are perfect and that
there are no leaders who ought not be to leaders. We
know that many churches can be more like country
clubs rather than a New Testament kind of local
However, that is still not an excuse for not being a
member of a church. It may take time and traveling
outside your town to find one. We have some families
that drive 80 miles one way to be part of our church
each Sunday.
As a traveling nurse it would be hard to plug in to a new
church every couple weeks or months as Eric
mentioned in the post.

• Share ›

Matt Mumma • 13 days ago

A man convinced against his will is of the same
opinion still. You won't know what I mean, but
there you go.
• Share ›

Twinkle • 13 days ago

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