Reconciliation with our Creator through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ restores every single part of our lives to God’s original design (Ephesians 2:10) – it impacts and transforms everything.
I wish that were the case for every person that calls themselves a “Christian” and every group that calls themselves a “church”. But it’s just not…it wasn’t even the case in Corinth, only 20 years after the resurrection of Jesus.
I had a pastor friend ask the question recently, “Is there a use for the local church anymore?” (I believe he was attempting to provoke thought not really question God’s plans). But truthfully, that’s not for us to decide. The local church is God’s design and not ours…it is not only useful until the day of Jesus’ return but it is absolutely essential. If it is not functioning according to the New Testament design of God, then it is NOT a local church – it’s a religious organization.
Paul says that sometimes when “Christians” get together, it’s not for the better but for the worse. He said that their religious gatherings, small groups (“discipleship”), and practices, even taking the Lord’s Supper, are purely self-indulgent, self-centered, humiliating acts. It’s all about them – it’s not about Jesus. Paul said that in God’s providential direction of the life of the church, he allowed pockets of carnality in the church (professing believers who feed their flesh) to reveal the genuine spiritual quality of individual believers. Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits.” People’s behavior reveals their identity to everyone who is watching. Our identity always drives our behavior. Paul called them out on it.
We need more of that in our community today. For the sake of Jesus’ prayer over the church and the lost world around them in John 17, “that they may all be one, just 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 have sent me” we need to distinguish between His Church and religious organizations by calling His Church to repentance.
But in the following instructions, I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse.  For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part,  for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.  When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.  For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk.  What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.1 Corinthians 11:17-22 ESV