Editor's Note: Today's post is a guest post from Dr Dustin Benge who is the author of Why Should We Love The Local Church? He is the Associate Professor of Biblical Spirituality and Historical Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. We're thankful that he has kindly taken the time to offer this final reflection for the current #LetsRead series.
Let’s Read: Why Should We Love the Local Church?
By Dustin Benge
First, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to you for reading, Why Should We Love the Local Church?. I pray it has encouraged your heart, increased your affection for the bride of Christ, and helped you view her in a different light—a Christ-centered light.
Nineteenth-century preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon captures the admiration all true believers should have for the church in his depiction of her as “the dearest place on earth.” Chosen by God the Father, purchased by Christ the Son, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, the church should be cherished and recognized as “dear” by all who call her home. Dear is not a word we often hear in our modern context, but its definition amply conveys what Spurgeon communicates to all believers concerning the church. It suggests deep affection. You may refer to someone as a “dear friend,” meaning that you warmly esteem that person and consider them a particular treasure in your life. By calling Christ’s church “dear,” Spurgeon says there is nothing in this present life that we should find more precious to our hearts, for this is how God himself sees her. Spurgeon continues, “Nothing in the world is dearer to God’s heart than his church; therefore, being his, let us also belong to it, that by our prayers, our gifts, and our labours, we may support and strengthen it.”
Every generation faces the challenge of biblically defining the church because our modern definitions never seem to shift from functionality and success to beauty and loveliness. The Apostle Peter describes the church as being composed of those called “out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). The church is the corporate gathering of the redeemed citizens of heaven, who have been transmitted from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of Christ through his shed blood, glorious resurrection, exalted ascension, and present intercession (Col. 1:13).
This biblical understanding sets the trajectory of every believer’s life, calling, service in ministry, and relationship with the whole world. While the church has a clear command, purpose, and mission, those do not define who the church is. There’s a deeper and more satisfying well from which to drink that, once realized, fuels such service and mission. Therefore, to capture her beauty and loveliness, the church must be defined not by what we do but by who we are.
I hope and pray that you will now see the church through this Christ-centered gospel lens. Thank you again for taking the time to read Why Should We Love the Local Church?. Every blessing to you as you love her and serve Christ through her.