At my previous church, there was a woman who would come every Sunday for the sermon but as soon as the preacher said “Amen”, she would be half-way out the door.

This woman came for one reason and one reason alone: the preaching.

I eventually managed to intercept her mid-flight and asked which church she belongs to. She answered: “I go to this church for the Word and another church for the Spirit”.

A smorgasbord approach to the Christian life that defies commitment to a single church.

Now putting aside the thought that our church was a Spirit-free zone, that woman’s answer expresses one of evangelicalism’s great sins—our capitulation to individualistic consumerism. A smorgasbord approach to the Christian life that defies commitment to a single church.

So we attend the Reformed church for the preaching, the charismatic church for the worship, our friends’ church for our small group and our home church but only when we’re rostered to serve.

And with a plethora of online church experiences, we’re fast converting evangelicalism into a global marketplace where thousands of local churches compete for our patronage.

I’m not saying that we can’t ever visit another church or that exceptional circumstances don’t exist but there are at least three reasons why all Christians should commit to a single church.

1. You Honour the Church

Depending on how you count it, there are between 50 and 60 “one another” passages in the New Testament. These include calls to love one another, welcome one another and be kind to one another (1 Jn 3:11; Rom 15:7; Eph 4:32).

On one level, we owe these “one anothers” to all Christians everywhere. After all, the Apostle Paul prays for believers in Colossae whom he has never personally met (Col 1:3–14).

And yet, in order to be fully expressed and enjoyed, all these “one anothers” require a set of close and consistent relationships—a single church community.

How can I “forgive one another” where there isn’t even the relationship or opportunity to sin against one another (Eph 4:32)? Or how can I bear another’s burdens when I don’t even know them—let alone if they are “overtaken in any wrongdoing” (Gal 6:1–2)?

Indeed, Paul’s command to “wait for one another” is set in the context of the Corinthian church regularly and physically gathering to share in the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:33–34).

The local church is the primary context where we live out the “one anothers” of Scripture.

And all these “one anothers” are necessarily reciprocal. They are ours both to receive and enjoy but also to reciprocate and extend.

The command to “pray for one another” demands not only that you pray for me but that I pray for you (Jas 5:16). Church does not exist simply for you to encourage me but for me to encourage you as well (1 Thess 5:11).

Cherry-picking different ministries from different churches undermines the reciprocal nature of the “one anothers” … it dishonours each of those churches by cheating them of their due.

Cherry-picking different ministries from different churches undermines the reciprocal nature of the “one anothers” and makes them entirely one-directional.

In fact, it dishonours each of those churches by cheating them of their due.

If we are fed at one church only to serve at another, we deprive the former of our service and the latter of an opportunity to serve us.

Committing to a single church honours the church by both giving and receiving.

2. You Ground your Discipleship

When I prepare to preach each Sunday, I always have our church family in mind.

If you belong to another church and visit us, I trust that you will benefit from the sermon because God’s word is for all his people. But the preaching of that word is specifically addressed to the saints at Cross & Crown in Melbourne.

I am applying God’s word to not just any believer but a definable group of committed believers with common needs and corporate sins.

The local church is the primary context within which God’s word comes to his people and engages their shared life. It grounds our discipleship.

We see a similar dynamic in John’s letters to the seven churches in Revelation.

On the one hand, all seven letters are written for the benefit of all seven churches, and all have a common message: to the one who overcomes, God will give his everlasting kingdom.

Nevertheless, each letter applies that message to the particular circumstances of each individual church. So the church in Ephesus is commended for not tolerating evil people while the church in Thyatira is rebuked for tolerating Jezebel (2:2; 3:20).

But imagine a Christian from Thyatira only reading the letter to the church in Ephesus. He would be praised for supposedly not committing the very sins he actually was committing. He may be hearing God’s word but not applied to him as he needs it.

If we only consume sermons from a church to which we do not actually belong, how will we ever hear the word applied to us as we need it? We may be rebuked for corporate sins which we do not share or praised for the godliness of another church.

While it’s easier than ever to access top-shelf preaching online, “the sermon you need to hear this Sunday is from your church minister, who loves you and prays for you” (Peter Adam).

Committing to a single church grounds our discipleship by giving us the right context to receive God’s words.

3. You Enjoy God’s Authority

The Bible has no concept of a churchless Christian. In fact, to be a Christian is to be saved into the church.

And the ascended Lord Jesus has entrusted the care of his church to elders who exercise godly authority over the flock (Acts 20:28). It is godly elders who Timothy and Titus appoint over their churches, and it is godly elders to whom we must submit (1 Pet 5:5).

The Bible has no concept of a churchless Christian. In fact, to be a Christian is to be saved into the church.

According to the Belgic Confession, the true church is marked not just by pure preaching and the sacraments but also “church discipline”—authority exercised for the good of the saints.

By refusing to commit to a single church, we not only fail to physically express what we spiritually are—members of one body—we actively reject God’s appointed authority over his people.

We spurn the shepherds gifted by God and appoint ourselves shepherds of our own souls.

When you combine Australian egalitarianism with individualistic consumerism, the thought of submitting to authority couldn’t be more culturally grating.

Just like Korah who led a rebellion against Moses and Aaron, we too easily challenge: “Everyone in the entire community is holy, and the Lord is among them. Why do you exalt yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?” (Num 16:3).

And yet, in refusing to submit to authority, we ironically fail to enjoy its benefits. We actually deprive ourselves of a divine gift.

Our elders exercise authority over us but they do so to protect us from danger (Acts 20:28). They shepherd us willingly and eagerly (1 Pet 5:2). They patiently rebuke, correct and encourage us by the word (2 Tim 4:1–2). And one day, they will stand before God and give an account for our souls (Heb 13:17).

Committing to a single church avails ourselves of these blessings which can only be enjoyed under God’s authority.

Afraid of Missing Out

The woman who visited our church only for the preaching thought she was getting it all—the best of every world. And yet ironically, she was missing out.

By failing to commit to a single church, she actually deprived herself of opportunities to serve and be served, a family with whom she could grow in Christlikeness, and a godly pastor who would lovingly care for her soul.

We refuse to commit because we’re afraid of missing out, and yet in failing to commit, we miss out on the richest blessings of all.