Why Church Matters – Part 1

 

Over the years, I have heard many reasons for why people think “church” is no longer relevant, and that going to one is a pointless exercise. Some may even argue that what we see today is unbiblical. I will take the next few posts to slowly unpack some of the common themes and places of confusion we might have as those who’ve grown up in a church or as someone now on the outside dreading the thought of “church”.

Before I address the most common points surrounding this issue, I think it is worth noting that the fundamental roots of this problem is found in the enterprise of church (more so, in my experience, in the Untied States). It has left many wondering if God is even part of the picture in this “experience”, let alone remaining the center of it. One extreme thrives on making an event become “church”. From the welcome to the coffee, the parking lot to the kids ministry, the men’s breakfasts to the women’s luncheons, the conferences to the streamed content, much of church related activity has been hijacked by a pick-and-mix bar of  programming to meet each consumer’s needs. When all that gets extreme, there is not much attention given to inviting those who don’t know Jesus to true encounters with God and diligently training them as followers of Jesus. On the other end of the spectrum, some churches are so intent on preserving “traditional church” (whatever that means to each kind) that it deviates little from a set format and practice regardless of a changing culture and world around them. It often means long meetings with little engagement of the attender, a few chosen ministers who do everything, and everything revolving in the orbit around THE “man of God”. Committees and boards abound and a lot of talking is done. Likewise, in extreme cases, encounters with God are missing and little training and developing of disciples happens.

<Sigh>……..This is where much of society finds themselves at odds with the “church”. Their wariness is founded on an opposition to both these extremes or a fear that every church between those extremes is headed towards one of those extreme ends. This leads many to make a summary statement “I would much rather meet Jesus by myself, and not have to deal with all this”.

With that backdrop, and all the preconceptions that fueled those blanket statements above, you can see how starting a discussion about the relevance of church from scriptural standpoint is quickly drowning as the listener gears up to tell you why your brand of church is tending towards one of those extremes if it is not already there (as they see it). This is why I’m hoping that calling these things out at the outset, gives us an opening to really dial all the preconceptions back so we can see why church matters. My hope is that you will see that much of the reasoning we have for leaving the church is based on snap preconceptions and the misconceptions that result from them. By the end of this series I hope that your particular concern is addressed and you are encouraged to reconsider joining or getting more involved in a Bible believing and practicing church with a passion.

The church is a people, not a person, definitely not a place

The sooner we get to grips with this, the better off our thinking on the subject is. The preconception that “Jesus loves me” equals “I am the church” is one of the biggest falsehoods of our time. While it makes for a good soundbite while sharing the gospel and mobilizing people, it is patently false. Jesus definitely loves the individual and died  and rose for each individual’s personal salvation, but by no means was that the gospel in its fullness. The intent of the gospel message was a reconciling of “people” to God

(Titus 2:14, 1 Peter 2:9). Many people. From every tribe, language and nation (Revelation 5:9

). The work of salvation and the returning of Christ is focused around a people made ready and not a person and their private online PhD and hotline with Jesus.
The church matters because Jesus started the church, we didn’t. He did this when He commissioned His disciples to go into all the world and make more disciples with Holy Spirit leading the work

(Acts 1:4-8, Matthew 28:18-20). When church becomes about me and ‘my’ Jesus, I’ve already veered far from the purpose of salvation in this time period. It is about MANY being saved from sin and all that plagues our world, and you and I (together) have been given the charge to see them reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). Seeing disciples made happens in the context of daily life and in community, the alternative is asceticism.  Before you say it, we all know how making isolated religious communities turn out.  So, rather than go there, can we agree that getting together with people from your immediate town or community regularly is a good idea? God could have asked us to run, hide away and be the best online Bible PhD that ever lived, but instead, He wants this gospel of Jesus to be on display right here in the darkness of our cities and communities (Philippians 2:15).

The Church: Disciples that make more disciples

Now, before we move further, let’s just clarify– the church as Jesus described it in very simple prototype terms, is a group of committed disciples of  Jesus making more new disciples by the indwelling and powerful work of the Holy Spirit. If our churches cannot use that simple statement to describe our condition, we are already messing with what “church” is. The word disciple (learner, follower, student, trainee) and the idea of making new ones is central to the mission.

Going to church, being the church, and getting over semantics

So, with the mission in mind, meeting regularly in a common place or building is helpful but by no means a necessary item. It so happens that one of the best coffee places in my town is called “The Commonplace” and whole lot of discipling and following of Jesus happens there with the smell of fresh roasted coffee around. Now, before you say “yeahhh…that’s my kinda church”, remember that we just established that you and your coffee-loving self are not the point of church. So, if the group of disciples that you roll with on a regular basis (read “home church”) happen to meet at a coffee shop during the week, great! The church is meeting! However, God made sure that you and your coffee buddies didn’t get to hold all of God’s manifold grace (

1 Corinthians 12:4-11, Romans 12:3-6, Ephesians 4:4-

7). He has dispersed this immeasurable grace among believers (with no one being an exception). So, guess what ?! If you believe in Jesus and have committed your life to His service, you have a grace gift that no-one else can supply to God’s church. We might be similar in gifting, but not the same. This is one of the good reasons why local churches meet. This, for most churches happens in one place regularly. I call it a church building. A building where the church meets. Don’t be afraid of buildings, they can be useful and necessary if alternative spaces cannot be found regularly. This is often a practical decision. When you don’t show up, something is actually missing in church whether they have a building or not.

Functioning locally, trans-locally, and globally

We need each person functioning and supplying the part of God’s grace which He has uniquely committed to them. This means the group of Jesus followers I call my “home church” needs what God has placed in me. I don’t get to “go to church”. My local church is missing something if I only show up to receive something. I come ready to be a life-giving expression of Jesus to my brothers and sisters. Something I have in my personal following of Jesus is meant for their growth as disciples of Christ.  When we grasp this, church means something totally different from what we’ve been used to. This is not even limited to my own “home church”. I often love to get together and have coffee buddies from other local churches, just so I get to receive from them and in turn bless another part of God’s big church that I might not get to see on a regular basis. So across my locality (trans-locally) other churches have gifts and expressions of the life of God that I can be thrilled about and cheer on. This must become a vital part of our understanding of church. If all we see as “church” is our brand, denomination, or pastor, we’re missing the big picture.  I also hope you see that being on the same team “The Church of Jesus” does not mean I become Mr Baskin-Robbins and decide to try all 31 flavors each week. I stay committed and accountable to one group/church, so I grow with intent and purpose (More in another post about reasons for this). But, with an attitude that sees  and values the church of Jesus as an ever-growing group of unique people all over the world, every encounter with His church in my town, on vacation, on mission trips, university life, etc… are all opportunities to  receive and bless.

We’ll cover more reasons for why the church matters  in the next post.


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