1. The Christian’s worship center. The local church is the center of the Christian’s worship. This is where our sacrifice for sin—our altar—is presented and understood (Hebrews 13:10; cf. 1 Corinthians 1:23). This is where our worship begins and flows out into the life. We damage the growth of Christian graces in the life if we neglect the assembling of the church (Ephesians 4:11–16; Hebrews 10:24–25).
2. The Christian’s schoolroom. Next to worship, teaching is the most prominent function of the church—they rise or fall together. The pastor and elders teach (2 Timothy 2:2), the people teach one another (Titus 2:4; 1 Timothy 5:1–2), and as a body we all teach the angels (Ephesians 3:10, 1 Corinthians 11:10) and the world (Colossians 4:5).
The learning experience of the church is not independent learning—sermons and lectures downloaded from the Internet do not serve this function of the church. The church as a schoolroom depends on the submissive integration and gracious interaction (Hebrews 13:17; Philippians 2:2–4) of Christians. They learn and teach at the same time as they interact with others in the church.
3. The Christian’s counselling room. The Spirit of God uses the preaching of the Word in a remarkable way to penetrate into the hearts and minds of the hearers (Acts 2:37). There is a mysterious element in the preaching of a single sermon. It can rebuke one and comfort another. One can be left in darkness and another illumined (Mark 4:11). “The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him” (Psalm 25:14). He knows your heart—the trials, fears, and anxieties you struggle with. The Word of God“is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). He is then the greatest psychiatrist, the Great Physician.
4. The Christian’s home. The gathering of the saints should also be that place we where can feel at home without the fear of criticism, strife, and rivalry (Philippians 2:2–4). We are equals in the family. This is what Paul told Philemon regarding his former servant Onesimus (Philemon 1:16; Colossians 4:9). This is our “household of faith” (Ephesians 2:19; Galatians 6:10).
5. The Christian’s workplace. The body cannot function without the members (1 Corinthians 12:14–27). The Lord has given “gifts” to the church but “every joint” and “part” of the body works together for the building up of the body (Ephesians 4:16). Many times throughout the epistle Paul thanked those otherwise unknown labourers who were the backbone of the church (e.g., Romans 16:12; Philippians 4:3; 1 Corinthians 3:9).
6. The Christian’s hospital ward. The gathering of the saints also functions as a place of refreshing and recovery and strengthening from spiritual maladies, falls, and injuries. The Lord tells Peter this function was one of the good things that He would bring out of Peter’s fall: strengthening of the brethren (Luke 22:32). Paul also viewed the gathered saints as a sort of infirmary for wounded Christians (Galatians 6:1–2).
7. The Christian’s woodshed. The Christian should also expect to be chastised under the preaching of the Word. In his epistles to young pastors, Paul reminds them that it is their duty to “rebuke … sharply” “with all authority” (1 Timothy 5:20; 2 Timothy 4:2;Titus 1:13; 2:15). We ought not to fight spiritual chastisement, but expect it and accept it as from the Lord. When we feel that chastisement, we should thank Him, remembering that it is an evidence that we are His children whom He loves (Hebrews 12:6).
8. The Christian’s missionary activity. Another important function of the church is its missionary work. Missionary work includes both the evangelisation of the lost and the helping of other churches in less favourable circumstances. Every Christian is commanded to go out to the world with the gospel and it ought to be his desire to do so (Matthew 28:19–20; Acts 4:20; 8:4). The local church provides an opportunity to channel money to churches in other lands (1 Corinthians 16:1) and to help the church worldwide (Matthew 25:45; Galatians 6:10). But the local church should also send out young men and women to work in other places and to assist in the extension of the church of Christ across the world (Philippians 2:25).
9. The Christian’s soundtrack. If all of these functions are in their place in the local church—and we give them their place—is there not enough here to keep the mind active through the week as we ponder the Word preached and have the Psalms and hymns echoing in our hearts? Should we not be like Mary who “kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart”? (Luke 2:19).
Should the “Songs of Ascent” not also be our soundtrack as we think of “going up” again to the house of the Lord? “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD” (Psalm 122:1; see also Psalm 42:4; 55:14; 63:1–3; 84:1–2; 84:10; 119:111).