Since theology was defended yesterday, today I want to look at a reason for good theology in the church. What the role of the church is for the believer. If the church has shunned good theology, it will not be very beneficial to the individual believer. So, let us look at the role of the church for the individual believers within it.
The church has much impact on the spiritual formation of a believer. This is said because the church is the body of believers. Several Scriptures attest to this fact. For example, “so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (English Standard Version Rom. 12:5, cf. 1 Cor. 12:12-27; Eph. 3:6; 4:15-16; 5:23; Col. 1:18, 24). Since the church is one body made up of many individual bodies, it seems that it would play a massive role in the spiritual formation of a believer. One could even go so far as to say that it is one of the most important parts of a believer’s spiritual formation.
The reason why the church is so important for one’s spiritual formation is because one is influenced by the cultural narrative, they are raised in. Just as James Bryan Smith stated about himself, “I will struggle with the “old Jim,” who was influenced by American culture, narratives, and values” (The Good and Beautiful Community: Following the Spirit, Extending Grace, Demonstrating Love 52). The narrative of culture is most usually against the narrative of the gospel. Robert Saucy adds force to this concept when he wrote, “Sin wants us away from community because in community our old self-centered ego cannot be hidden” (Minding the heart: The Way of Spiritual Transformation 235). Since culture tends to say, “you do you and be you regardless of what anyone else says” which leads to self-centeredness. Whereas in the community of the church, one is drawn away from self-centered thinking because the believer is to love others as they love themselves, serve the needy, love the downtrodden, and love in action and truth (Matt. 22:39; Acts 20:35; Luke 14:12-14; 1 John 3:18). When one is in a church community, they will learn from seeing others doing this and therefore they will, in turn, do the same. Church helps one to grow in their love and care for others and therefore they grow spiritually.
To further illustrate the role the church plays in spiritual formation one needs to look no further than the physical body. There is a reason why the Apostle Paul utilized the body as his way of describing the church. The body has many parts but if one part is hurt another part takes up the load and continues to carry the body, e.g., when a leg is hurt the other supports the hurt one. But not every part of the body can be another part but has its responsibility in the body. Where without each part working as it should the body struggles until each part is working right again. To state this another way, “God channels his help through his people” (Saucy 232). If one is alone, they are subject to failing and falling. They have no support when something comes upon them and they can fall because, “Two are better than one…For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him…if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?” (Eccl. 4:9-11). When together in the church one has another to help them and come alongside them to build them up and encourage them.
As just stated, the church helps to build one another up or edify one another. This, according to Saucy, is “One of the most important biblical terms for our growth” (225). Saucy further elaborates that the term edification in all its key uses “speak of building up one another rather than directly building up our self” (225). It is right here where one learns not to be self-centered and all about themselves alone. With the church, one can, and will, learn to love others and care for them as Christ has said all should do. The spiritual formation of the believer in the church is seen in the mutual upbuilding/edification they learn by serving and loving together. As an individual, this cannot be learned as it is with the church. So, it seems that the church has a very impactful role in the spiritual formation of a believer. If for nothing else than teaching them how to love others as they love themselves and therefore fulfill the second great commandment (Matt. 22:39).