There seems to be a movement in our society away from so-called “organized religion.” Churches are regarded by many as relics of the past, and people are increasingly in favor of practicing Christianity entirely on their own. So why join a church?

The local church is at the very center of New Testament Christianity.

Yes, it’s true. And I don’t believe that’s an overstatement. Just look at Acts 2. Jesus has ascended into heaven and Peter has just finished delivering his famous sermon at Pentecost through which 3,000 people embrace Jesus. This is where everything started: these people are the very first Christians.

Then, look what it records in Acts 2:42-47: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 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, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

I believe this passage clearly illustrates my assertion that the local church is at the very center of New Testament Christianity. Actually, this is so obvious in this text that it’s very easy just to pass right over it without a second thought.

But notice how when Peter preaches his sermon and 3,000 people come to faith, they don’t just all go their separate ways after that, telling each other, “Hey guys, this was fun, and…maybe we’ll do this again next year.” No, that’s not what happens. They don’t just take a few selfies and then disperse. They form a community. They continue meeting together on a regular basis, and verse 42 records how they continue listening to the apostles’ teaching on a regular basis.

That’s really significant. Don’t just read over that. From the very first day Christianity started and onward after that, Christians have always formed themselves into Christian communities. Here in Acts 2, they viewed themselves not as isolated followers of Jesus with each one doing their own thing but as a distinct community of people that other passages throughout the New Testament commonly refer to as a church.

Now let’s look at Hebrews chapter 3. The book of Hebrews was written to Christians who were going through a rough patch spiritually. They were experiencing persecution for being Christians, and they were tempted to revert back to their old way of living. And it’s in response to that temptation that the book of Hebrews was written.

Look at Hebrews 3:12-14: “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

So do you see what that’s saying? So apparently, looking at verse 13, there’s a real danger that we’ll be “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Left to ourselves, we can very easily wander astray and start chasing after sin instead of chasing after Jesus. Sin’s “deceitful” like that. It deceives us into thinking that it will satisfy us, that it will take care of us, and that it’s our best option. And it can very easily pull us in. That’s why we need each other.

One author named Paul Tripp writes in response to this verse, “I need you in order to really see and know myself. Otherwise, I will listen to my own arguments, believe my own lies, and buy into my own delusions. My self-perception is as accurate as a carnival mirror. If I am going to see myself clearly, I need you to hold the mirror of God’s Word in front of me.”

That’s what we need as Christians. We need each other. And the place you get that kind of nurture and that kind of committed love is in a church.

You see, we’re all breathing the air of an increasingly secular society day in and day out. I remember reading about China and all of the problems China has been having with their air quality. And you may have heard that it’s actually gotten so bad in China that when they had the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing, a lot of the athletes were worried about even going there. One of them actually dropped out of the Olympics because she was so concerned about her health. Even more recently, it’s estimated that polluted air contributes to about 17% of deaths in China. One scientist, on a trip to Beijing, happened to be there on a day when the air quality was even lower than usual, and he actually calculated that he was losing 20 minutes off of his life expectancy for every hour of that he breathed that air.

And guess what we’re breathing in all the time? Not only are we probably breathing in more physical pollutants than we want to think about, but we’re also constantly breathing in spiritual pollutants. We live in a relatively godless culture, and that culture is the air we breathe.

That’s why it’s so vital that we’re plugged into a healthy, Bible-teaching church that will give us the truth in undiluted form so that we can detox from the hazardous air we’re taking in every day. And we need that truth both from the pulpit and in the context of everyday conversations. That’s why I’m convinced that you can’t be a healthy Christian without being involved in a local church.