Borrowed from Facebook friend, Dennis Newkirk.
So the church isn’t that important, huh? That is a prevailing sentiment held by many today—maybe not in their words but by their actions. Otherwise, how do we explain why half of the members of churches never show up? Because the church isn’t necessary. Why do attending members find it so easy to allow football games, the weather, and business take them away from the fellowship of their church? Because the church isn’t important. Why do so many think it’s acceptable to financially contribute very little, if anything at all, to the ministry of the church? Well, I’ll say it again. Because the church isn’t necessary. Sometimes we all must be away, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The problem is when you find it easy to be unfaithful and unsupportive. In other words, your actions prove the unimportance of the church in your own life.
Believing that the church is unimportant—or at least irrelevant to you—is easy. Doing so requires no commitment and no sacrifice. Our commonly held me-centered individualism fits in perfectly with an inconsequential church. End of story.
But wait. Consider, for just a moment, that the widespread belief in the unimportance of the church is entirely wrong. What then? What if the church is vitally important and we cut ourselves off from a central part of God’s plan of progressive sanctification (growth in our fellowship with Christ and in our likeness of Him) if we disregard the importance of the church?
Biblical View of Church...
The biblical view of the church is that the church is vitally important. The Bible describes the church not as a building but as the believers who have covenanted to gather to:
• Support the truth, spread the gospel, and organize themselves according to biblical standards to worship, serve, and grow (Acts 2:42; Hebrews 10:25).
• Love one another (1 John 4:12).
• Encourage one another (Hebrews 3:13).
• Spur one another on to godly living (Hebrews 10:24).
• Serve one another (Galatians 5:13).
• Instruct one another (Romans 15:14).
• Honor one another (Romans 12:10).
• Act with compassion to one another (Ephesians 4:32).
All of the “one anothers” of the New Testament happen within fellowship—not within the safe confines of anonymity and individualism.
The Body of Christ...
When we receive Christ, we become a part of the body of Christ, the universal church (1 Corinthians 12:27). But in addition, we’re created in Christ to be part of the local church, which is made up of members who have been gifted by the Holy Spirit to function as parts of a body that does the work of Christ in this world (1 Corinthians 12:14–20).
The truth is, every believer needs the functions of the other parts of the body (church) to grow in maturity and grace (1 Corinthians 12:21¬–26). That means you need other members of a local church, and they need you. Have you considered that the fruit of the Spirit, the characteristics of the Holy Spirit’s work of changing your character, all relate to other people? “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22–23, ESV).
This morning, Marcia and I were setting in a church in north Phoenix. I had been asked to preach the sermon, and I turned to Marcia and commented about the last month. I’ve taught at First Baptist Sierra Vista, Cross Church in Surprise for two weeks, and Happy Valley Baptist in Glendale. These churches are in different cities, have different styles, and are various sizes but we could sense the love that they have for one another and the Lord. There is nothing like the church.
Imperfect but Crucial...
So the church isn’t necessary, huh? Just the opposite! The church, as imperfect and frustrating as we may sometimes be, is still crucial in the plan for your spiritual development and for much of the impact that Christ would have you make in this world. Let me say it plainly: you need the church. But there’s more to it than that. You need to be a functioning, committed, and vital part of the local church for you to become the Christian God has called you to be.
I could write a dozen more articles on this subject and still only scratch the surface. For now, however, let me simply encourage you to stay in the church, get back in church, or find and join a church where Scripture is taught, and Christ is glorified.
Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. Don’t allow love to turn into lust, setting off a downhill slide into sexual promiscuity, filthy practices, or bullying greed. Though some tongues just love the taste of gossip, those who follow Jesus have better uses for language than that. Don’t talk dirty or silly. That kind of talk doesn’t fit our style. Thanksgiving is our dialect. You can be sure that using people or religion or things just for what you can get out of them—the usual variations on idolatry—will get you nowhere, and certainly nowhere near the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of God. Don’t let yourselves get taken in by religious smooth talk. God gets furious with people who are full of religious sales talk but want nothing to do with him. Don’t even hang around people like that. –Ephesians 5:1-7, Message
Often in my studies and preparations for sermons and Bible studies, I like to use various versions and even paraphrases of the biblical text. I have to be honest and say that my favorite paraphrase is Eugene Peterson’s, The Message. As I began my quiet time with the Lord this morning, I opened my Bible App on my phone (YouVersion) and I was utterly amazed by the Scripture that immediately popped up. I don’t recall having looked at this passage in recent days, but apparently God wanted me to read His message for me.
This particular section from Ephesians begins with, “Watch what God does!” I really love that question because our focus (at least for my church folks) is not always on Jesus. Now I recognize that we have a multiplicity of things that hound us for our attention, and like me, you are aware of the idols in your life that do absolutely nothing but lead you down a path to spiritual ruin and sometimes physical death. But I think a statement that I heard recently went something like, “Christians must move beyond belief in a historical Jesus and begin to place their full faith and trust in a contemporary Jesus.” You ask, what does this mean? I’m so glad you asked.
In my faith tradition (Baptist), I have long believed that we focus too heavily on teaching to deliver information. We know lots of Scripture and we believe the Bible. As one recently said, “We believe the Bible from Genesis to the maps in the back.” But we must consider how the knowledge we possess is transforming our lives. Is it possible that we believe in a biblical Jesus without acknowledging Him as Jesus today? Could it be that we are distracted from watching to see what Jesus is doing because we’re not sure that “Jesus DOESN’T change – yesterday, today, tomorrow, He’s always totally Himself.” (Hebrews 13:7, Msg)
So, I said the message was for me. Yes, this Pastor/Preacher needs to make a decision. And you may need to consider the message for yourself too. It’s not a one-time choice, but rather a daily decision. Is the Jesus of the Bible still alive today? Was His ministry on earth pretty much for those in biblical days? Do His teachings in Scripture relate to our contemporary lives? Or, has God created us and simply said, “make it in this life the best way you can and I’ll greet you at the Heavenly gates when you die.”
Pray for me if you will, pray for yourself, pray for our churches, that we might become increasingly aware of what Jesus is doing all around us. Pray that we as His people will become more focused on the goodness of God and His transforming power at work in each of us – and increasingly less distracted by the rapidly changing culture around us.
Carlyle Hall, Jr.