Why bother with The Church?
Can a Christian have nothing to do with the church? Our minister, Philip, preached a sermon looking at what God's Word has to say about the church. Here's a summary of what he taught.
Here are some views that I've heard people express about the church:
- I struggle with church. I don't really fit in, so I concentrate on my relationship with God
- I'm free in Christ. I live under grace, not the law, so I don't have to go to church and I don't have to get involved in church things
- I don't get that much out of church so I prefer just to read the bible myself
- My church is my group of friends. They are the people that understand me and the people I like to be with
- I don't have to worship God at a particular time and in a particular place. Sure I can worship Him on the golf course, mountainside, or even at the shopping centre
Church life/involvement can be viewed with:
- Anger – for some the church has been a place of hurt and pain
This leads to the question - why bother with the church?
Using 1 Peter 2 as a starting point – here are 4 truths from God’s Word about the Church. 4 convincing reasons why those who follow Jesus should be part of the Church.
The Church is:
Peter describes the believers in Christ as “living stones” (v.5).
In v.4 he talks about them coming to the Living Stone, rejected by men, but chosen by God and precious to Him i.e. Jesus Christ:
- who was despised and rejected by men – led to the Cross
- that death at the Cross is the way in which we are brought near to God
v.5 …you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
One of the basics of the bible that needs to be stated loud and clear – the church is NOT the building. Where we meet is a sanctuary/meeting house where the church gathers. The church is the people of God in Christ.
Many will understand this, but do we really believe this? Is it a truth reflected in how we live our lives and approach the church?
We get no sense in 1 Peter 2, or elsewhere in the bible, of a 'take it or leave it' approach to the church.
As believers in Christ we are saved for a purpose – to bring God glory - and the purpose is fulfilled through the church – we are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
The church is made up of ordinary people who are called by God, saved by Jesus and who love him. It is not our choice to be part of the church, if we are God’s people in Christ, we are the church!! To say otherwise is like saying – “I opt out of my family.”
I read a story about a guy who was clearing out his grandmother's house soon after her death. He was sorting stuff into the categories - a skip or the charity shop. He found an old vase and was ready to throw it out, but his girlfriend urged him to get it valued. So he wrapped the vase in a bit of newspaper and threw it into the back seat of his car, where it stayed for weeks.
Eventually his girlfriend persuaded him to take it along to an antiques fair, where an expert valued it at several thousand pounds. You can imagine the rest of the story. He immediately bought bubblewrap, carefully transported it home and put it in a safe place. Discovering that the vase was something of great value transformed his attitude towards it.
Some of the problems in our attitude to the church are because we don’t think the church is that important. If we don’t consider the church to be of value – then a take it or leave it approach is understandable.
In Scripture there is always a high view of the Church. It is regarded as being something that is really special.
Look at Peter’s description of the church – those who have been brought together by God in Christ.
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Peter tells us that those who make up the church have a special status and a special role.
Hearing this, should we not begin to see each other in a different way in this church? Ultimately we know how special the church is because Jesus gave his life for it.
Paul in Ephesians 5 :25 – Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
That’s the measure of our worth. That’s how special the church is!
3) GLOBAL BUT ALSO LOCAL
Who is the church? Who belongs to it?
Is it by baptism, membership, attendance?
Peter makes it really clear. It's not a case of being part of the church, but being the church – and it is because of Jesus and what he has done.
In 1 Peter 2, he talks about a before and after state.
v.9 God called you out of darkness and into his wonderful light
v.10 we become God’s people because we have received his mercy
v.4 this change of status comes about through coming to Jesus, the Living stone.
It really is all about Jesus!
So the true church is all believers in Christ. In that sense – the church is global, catholic, worldwide.
But the church is also LOCAL! In the NT we see that day to day discipleship of believers is lived out in the context of the local church. People worshipping together, sharing with one another, bearing each other’s burdens.
- Letters are written to local churches
- The Apostles establish and encourage local churches
- We read the stories of local churches
This example of Scripture is so important!
Steve Timmis & Tim Chester write in ‘Total Church’ (IVP):
Some people take a fluid view of the church in the name of the universal church. They go to a conference, join a short-term team, participate in a parachurch organisation, claiming that all these constitute their commitment to the church. These are not a substitute for the community that the NT presupposes is the context of the Christian life. It is easy to love the church in the abstract or to love people short-term. But we are called to love people as we share our lives with them. This is the pathway to Christian growth and holiness. Commitment to the people of God is expressed through commitment to specific congregations.
CU’s, summer teams, Christian organisations are valuable and good! But they should not replace the local church in a believer’s life.
Church at the local level, on a day in day out basis is messy and it is tough. But that’s the point! Don’t deprive yourself and others!
John Wesley: “The Bible knows nothing of solitary religion.”
John Stott: “We are not only committed to Christ, we are committed to the body of Christ. Indeed we cannot be one without the other. For the church lies at the centre of the purpose of God. God’s purpose… is not just to save isolated individuals and so perpetuate our loneliness, but rather to call out a people for himself and build his church.”
In the NT, church involvement is not often instructed because it is simply assumed. For the first believers, someone saying, “I’m a follower of Jesus, but I just don’t bother with the church,” would have been the weirdest thing. They just wouldn’t have been able to get their heads round that way of thinking.
I pray that this will be a transforming word.
- People will love the Lord of the Church who has shown such great love to us
- People will love his church more and more