As a pastor in the community I meet with many people who consider themselves Christians but do not attend any church. Many people today believe that the church is not necessary for their faith. For some they have been hurt through difficult experiences while, for others, they see the great hypocrisy that goes on in the church. For these reasons, many have said ‘good-bye’ to the church.
This article is not written to defend the church as though these problems are no big deal. I believe that they are a big deal. But I believe that the church is so important for Christians that it should not be given over to those who cause problems or live as hypocrites. I believe this for three reasons.
First, the church is the Bride of Christ. It would be difficult for me to hear someone tell me that they truly love me but hated my wife. My wife is such a big part of my life. When someone says that they love Christ but hate the church that is what they are saying. The church has been purchased by the blood of Christ upon the cross. He did this “so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).
In Revelation 21:2 we see a picture of the church as the New Jerusalem, prepared “as a bride adorned for her husband.” Of course the church, this side of eternity, is far from being holy and without blemish. There is an “already but not yet” aspect to the church just like there is with our own holiness. If we trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins then we know that we are holy before God. But we also know that we continue to struggle with our sin.
Second, the church is the Kingdom of God. In the Old Testament, God worked through the nation of Israel. If someone wanted to be saved then they would become part of the nation. However, in the New Testament, we read about how there is no longer any distinction between Jew and Gentile (Romans 10:12). In the New Testament, the church is said to begin in Jerusalem and Judea and to spread to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). It is through the faithful ministry of the church that God calls his people to Himself.
This does not exclude the fact that God calls us into a personal relationship with Himself through Christ. It just means that there is something more than a personal relationship. God saves us into a community of like-minded believers. We need one another for our faith to grow. A Christian outside of the church is like an Old Testament Israelite outside of the covenant community.
Third, the church is a family. Shortly after the Day of Pentecost, we read that the Christians were regularly meeting together; “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). The church is the community of God’s people where we should find encouragement, instruction and safety. The church is not perfect, of course, but the promise is that one day it will be perfected.
In the end, too many people look for the church to fill the wrong holes. Many people want the church to provide youth programs or marriage seminars or twelve steps to their best life. But the church does not exist for any of these reasons. The church’s purpose in this world is the faithful worship of God and proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection. We all need to be reminded of what God has done to save us and we are called to gather every week to worship God and to grow in our faith.
We are told, in Hebrews 10:24-25, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
It’s hard to imagine but by the time Hebrews was written (around 64 A.D.) Christians were already starting to abandon worshiping together. But the author of Hebrews wants to encourage God’s people to continue meeting together for spiritual growth, for mutual encouragement and for faithfulness in worshiping God.
We invite you to worship with us! We meet for our morning service every Sunday at 10:00 am and our evening service at 6:00 pm in the Dow Leadership Center at Hillsdale College (22 E. Galloway Dr.).
We would be delighted if you would come join us!
If you have any questions, please call 517-437-4462 or email firstname.lastname@example.org