If you are in a church that is building on the right foundation, you can rejoice in God's provision. Your responsibility to is give yourself wholeheartedly to the building under the direction of the Spirit, in whatever measure of grace you have received from God. Unfortunately many find themselves in gatherings that are not on the right foundation. They may realize that the foundation is not correct and that there is no real building taking place. They may even see clearly that they can no longer be a part of it, and move to separate themselves. But then what? What if there is no true expression of the household of God in our locality? How do we start? What can we do?
If we move from one church to another, we must be very sure we are moving for the right reasons. If we believe the gathering we are presently part of is an expression of the body of Christ, why would we consider leaving? Are we unhappy with the leadership? Are we having difficulties with another member? These in themselves are not grounds for leaving a gathering. God wants to work in these situations, and more often than not, the working needs to take place in me. It is always much easier to see the working that needs to take place in others. But if we are leaving one true expression of the church to be part of another expression, I believe God will give a unified witness in our heart and to the leadership of both gatherings. Remember, God is one.
Probably a more common occurrence is that we believe God is leading us out of a gathering that is not on the proper foundation. This may be true, but before taking this action, may I encourage such a one to make sure they have taken the matter before the Lord in a very serious way? Have I let God deal with me? Are my motives pure? Have I asked for a witness from other spiritual members? Have I given time for God to work? Have I made every effort to have fellowship with leadership in areas of foundational truth? Am I sure that God has spoken to me? For such an action to benefit me and the testimony of God, it must be done in faith with confidence before God. Only God can give the confidence and clear seeing that is necessary. To divide where God does not divide is a very serious matter before God (see 1 Corinthians 3:16,17).
Another common occurrence is for members to separate themselves from a gathering for various reasons, but then not function in any gathering. They look around and cannot find any gathering that they believe is on the right foundation. Because of this, they settle into a place of "just me and God." This may be necessary in the beginning, but it is a very dangerous place to stay. In this place, they are not benefiting from the provision God has made in the household. All of the above areas regarding being built together are not taking place. They may visit other believers from time to time, encouraging each other in some measure. But if we stop short of allowing God to build us together with other members of the body of Christ, we will find ourselves missing out on more than we can imagine. Outside of God's provision in the body, we are vulnerable to many wiles of the enemy. The supply of God's grace coming to us through others is very limited. The structure that God designed for us to serve others within is not present. God's plan is for us to be a part of a local expression of the church.
There may be many more circumstances, but we could mention just one more. After searching for a local gathering and not finding one that meets the requirements we see in God, we may choose the "best available option" and begin to gather there. There are some very important questions to ask at this point. Do I believe this is an expression of the body of Christ? Is Christ the head? If so, what is my reservation about it? There may be areas of weakness that God is working on, but if we wait for the "perfect gathering" by our own definition, we may never find it. There are always imperfect members (like us!) being added, and much of the working in the body is to bring each believer to maturity in Christ. But this will not happen if the foundation is faulty and truth (Christ) is being ignored.
If we properly understand that all truth relates to the person of Christ, we can never set aside any area of truth and expect the blessing of God. If a gathering does not have the presence and blessing of Christ in open fellowship with Him, how can we make spiritual progress in God there? Any reservations toward God or toward walking in the light of truth will have serious consequences. To realize God's purpose in the church, we must be able to give ourselves in faith without reservation.
If we do not find a true expression of the body of Christ in our locality, what should we do? Of course we cannot answer every situation for every member. Only the Holy Spirit can give us the wisdom and direction we need for our specific situation. But I believe we can give some general encouragement for members that find themselves in this situation. God's purpose is that there will be an expression in every locality. Christ died for the whole world, and God is not willing that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance. Knowing this, we can be sure that God desires a testimony in every locality.
First of all, do we see the plan of God in some measure? If not, then the first step should be to go before God asking Him to open our eyes, that we may see the plan of God in Christ. We cannot see everything all at once, but if we ask, God will be faithful to show us a beginning revelation of His plan. We must ask in all humility, utterly dependent on His eye salve to help us see. If we do not see in some degree, we will not be able to move in faith. Many today do not see the body of Christ. Paul said it is a mystery, but that the mystery has now been made known. Paul labored for all to see this mystery. It takes a miracle of revelation from God to allow us to see as He sees. Just studying the Bible or reading good books is not enough. We must deal with God. Read 1 Corinthians 2 in this light. God has given the Holy Spirit that we may know the things of God.
When we begin to see, if God's love is moving in our hearts, we will start to give ourselves in prayer. Let us not pass over this place of intercession lightly. Even though Paul said he was a master builder, we find him prostrate before God in prayer, praying that God would open the eyes of men to see the plan and provision of God (Ephesians 2:14-21). If we are concerned about the testimony of God in our locality, the first place this burden will work out is in intercession before the throne of God. There is no natural explanation for this. This is God's way. There may be months of time spent before the Lord in this matter. We cannot predict the timing, but we see that every work of God is born in prayer and continues in the same way. The church is born out of intercession before God because the work must be of God, not of man.
As we wait before God in this place of prayer, we can expect God to speak to us and direct us in reaching out to others. It is impossible that God will not answer believing prayer. Only God can show us how to reach out, and He will show us. God works in impossible situations according to His divine power. He will lead us to those who are hungry for more of Jesus. If we are moving under His authority and directed by the Spirit, a fragrance of Christ will be coming through our lives. When those who are hungry touch Jesus in us, the love of God will draw us together. The binding power between believers is the life of God expressed in love. The driving force that brings us together is our love for Jesus expressed in obedience, concern for the testimony of God, and a desire to see Christ lifted up in our locality, that He may draw men to Himself. It is a miracle of God's grace expressed through men.
What about the gifts of God? Do we need them all before we are a church? Are we a church if we don't have elders? What if we are only two or three members to begin with? Should we expect God to provide all the gifts in every assembly? These and many other questions may fill our minds as we begin. They are important questions, but the only answer I can give is this: Is God really God? Can the church be built with natural energy, or does it take a supernatural work of God? No situation is too hard for God. He knows how to meet with two or three, and He knows how to meet with two or three hundred. If a gathering grows too large, He knows when it should separate into two gatherings in different localities to expand the witness and allow a proper functioning. He knows what each gathering needs, and He knows how to meet those needs. We cannot reason these things out in our natural minds and come up with rules. We need to know God and believe He can do what He said He would do.
Jesus said He would build His church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. Can Jesus do what He said He would do? He said He would send the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. Did He do that? Is the Holy Spirit still present to reveal the things of Christ and make them real in us? Amen and amen!