Being a Christian in the United States is not what it used to be. Recent surveys by the Barna Group and others show that today’s Christians are not as devout or as faithful as those of previous generations. In years gone by the average believer faithfully attended worship services every Sunday unless they were sick or out of town. Today’s worshipper does not feel compelled to demonstrate such a commitment.
Thom Rainer, President of Lifeway Christian Resources, states that “the number one reason for the decline in church attendance is that members attend with less frequency than they did just a few years ago.” (http://tinyurl.com/mzwpjf3). In other words, it is not that less people are attending church. Rather, it is that people are attending church less. So, how important is the Church to Jesus? Is it necessary for Christians to attend Church? And, why do we attend Church anyway? Here are several important truths that we need to know about the Church.
1. The Church is important to Jesus
I have to admit I am a fanatic of the local Church. Now, being a local Church pastor, I am sure that such a statement does not surprise you. But, my fanaticism for the Church goes beyond my calling and my profession. It is rooted in the teaching of Jesus and New Testament ecclesiology. Notice that…
- The Church is the Body of Christ
This truth is repeatedly seen through the New Testament. The Church is called “one body in Christ” in Romans 12:5, “the body of Christ” in 1 Corinthians 12:27 and Ephesians 4:12, and “the body” in Hebrews 13:3. The Church is clearly equated with “the body” of Christ in Ephesians 5:23 and Colossians 1:24.
As Christ’s body, the Church is His representative here on Earth. It is an extension of Him. It is the Church that is empowered to live out the love, compassion and vision of Jesus. Thus, in that way we function as His body.
- The Church is the Bride of Christ
Ephesians 5:25 – Husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.
Revelation 19:7 – Let us rejoice and exult and give him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made herself ready.
I can think of no description that would give more insight into how important the Church is to Christ. Or, for that matter, how important the Church should be to us. At any wedding, it is the Bride who is the focus of attention and honor. The congregation stands to recognize her. The groom declares his love for her. Everyone wants to take pictures with her. Although the groom is important, he pales in significance to the Bride. The wedding is all about her!
I believe that is why God chose the symbol of the Bride to represent the Church. Just as the Bride is joined to the Groom, so the Church is joined to Christ. Just as the Bride publicly declares her love and commitment for the groom, so the Church publicly declares its love and commitment to Christ. Just as the Bride is treated with honor and respect, so the Church should be attended, loved and esteemed. It is Christ’s Bride.
2. The Church is necessary for the believer
This truth flies in the face of many independent-minded Christians today. Because of the fact that no Church is perfect, many have used the Church’s flaws as an excuse to disconnect or not attend. They feel they can make it on their own. They do not need the Church. That simply is not true. Here are several reasons why you and your family need to be connected to a local assembly of believers.
- The Church is the pillar and ground of truth – I Timothy 3:15
We live in a time in which everything is questioned and everything is up for debate. How do we know what is true and false? How do we know what we should believe and what we should reject? Paul clearly tells us that it is the task of the Church to promote and protect the integrity of the Gospel. Quite frankly, if you are disconnected from the Church you are in danger of drifting from the truth.
- The Church is the center of corporate worship – I Corinthians 3:17, 18
The significance of corporate worship is seen in Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthians. As the believer meets and worships together with other believers, he beholds the glory of the Lord. Christ’s presence is felt and experienced in a palpable and transformational way when God’s people get together. It is that corporate experience that allows us to see and be transformed by His glorious presence. The simple truth is that when God’s people get together God shows up in a powerful way (Matthew 18:20).
WOW! How powerful is that? Shouldn’t that be the most important event in the week of any believer? How can many Christians “blow off” that event as if other things in life are more important? There is nothing more important than God’s people getting together to worship our great Savior!
- The Church is the training ground for spiritual growth – Ephesians 4:11-16
Christ gifted His Church with qualified and Spirit-filled leaders who are responsible to build up the Body of Christ. Such training results in maturity, stability, solidarity and healthiness. A mature, stable, healthy and unified Church is prepared to serve its community.
- The Church is the control center for Christian service
Throughout the New Testament Pastors, Deacons and Missionaries were commissioned for service through their local Church (Acts 6:1-7; 13:1-3; 14:23). Lone ranger Christians accomplish very little. It is the Church organized and empowered that has been commissioned to make disciples and to impact its community.
So, how valuable is the Church to you? Do you treat it with the same importance as Jesus? I strongly believe that a Christian cannot love Jesus and not love the Church. If Jesus died for the Church how can we not love, attend and support it? Let us make sure that we do not minimize what Christ emphasizes.