What I am going to write in these next few paragraphs is the culmination of years of being a Church leader. I know that what I am typing right now flies in the face of all modern teachings about Church. But I have grown weary of hearing the same thing repeated without thought, and I have to say something.
Last week while attending a conference I heard the same type of phrasing at least six different times. It was the simple refrain of “the Church needs to get outside its walls.” Another time it was phrased as “we need to stop attending Church and be the Church.” Still a third time it was proclaimed as “be the gospel, don’t just preach the gospel.”
Everywhere I go there is the continually repeated plea to “be the Church.”
My problem is that there is not an either/or choice to be made. Meeting on Sunday morning with a group of believers is still the Church. Serving in our community is also the Church. Lately, the emphasis is on one of those. In fact, it has gotten to the point that some Christians are abandoning worship all together in an effort to “be the Church.”
I am here today to declare that I believe what we do on Sunday morning at our Church gatherings is vitally important.
There are three primary reasons I feel this way.
1. The Power of the Gospel. The Bible declares a message about Jesus that we call “good news” or “the gospel.” This is the story that God hates sin, but he loves people. He sent his son into history as a man to live and die on a cross. He was bodily resurrected and ascended to the right hand of the father. One day he will return to judge both the living and the dead based on their reaction to this good news. What truly separates the Church from the world is the message of Jesus Christ and his salvation.
I fear that much of what I see the Church doing could be labeled as “community service.” We go and do nice things to have a nice community full of nice people living in nice houses. Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount that the real point of serving people is so that they glorify God in heaven (Matthew 5:16). We help people so that will be more receptive to hearing the message of the gospel proclaimed to them. The gospel is what will ultimately change their lives.
The Church gathers on Sundays to hear the gospel proclaimed and explained, that is a primary role of the Church.
2. The Power of Words. There seems to be this bias today toward action. If I help a person repair their house I have done something great, if I talk to them then I am just a man of words. I continually remind people of the power of words. Words have the ability to heal, to encourage, to bring joy and to serve in their own unique way.
To illustrate this point I usually point to doctors. There are two groups of doctors in the world. One of them heals the physical body. The other, called Psychologists and counselors, try to help heal the soul. And how do they do it? They talk and listen.
Each week, preachers like myself try to speak words of life to their congregations. In the past few weeks, I have preached about how to remove regret, confront anger in our souls, heal broken relationships and win over worry. Each week someone has told me that I helped them find healing. Church gatherings may involve a lot of talking, but that is not a bad thing.
3. The Power of Prevention. Another bias I see is that most people view recovery ministry as the highest form of serving. I would suggest that the Church gathers to also help with prevention. Let me ask you, “Is it more important to take a girl off the streets or to keep a girl off the streets?” Both seem equal to me.
The Church comes together to teach and train, and we work toward developing healthy people to live in this dark time. This week at youth group I am going to explain about honoring your father and mother. My hope and prayer are to teach children that their parents have the best in store for them (at least Christian parents) so they should listen to them. I hope it will help the child thinking about running away or making some other destructive choice.
My mother says, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It is still true.
I fear that we live in a time when the Church meeting on Sunday morning is being reduced to a non-effective form of ministry. I am here to declare that I think it is a vital part of everyone who calls themselves a believer. Sure, we can spend too much time at meetings and not enough out in the world doing ministry, but the opposite is also true. We can spend so much time trying to “be the Church” that we lose our saltiness (Matthew 5:13).
The Church has many roles, and I believe all of them are important to the life of believers.