Is the Church Important? (Matthew 16:18)

Over the past few months we have been discussing our Mission and Vision.  Our Mission—What We Are Called To Do—is reaching and teaching for changed lives.  Our Vision—Where We Hope To Go—is that we want to be a community of disciples who love God and love others.  We have already discussed two principles needed to carry out our mission and move towards our vision. The first was “Trusting God through Prayer” and the second was “Honoring God with our Resources”.  This morning we shall discuss the importance of the church and why it should be a priority in our lives.

The Church is Important

The church is important because our Lord Jesus Christ tells us it is important.  Jesus’ letters to the seven churches of Revelation reveal how much He values the church.  Did you realize that most of our New Testament was addressed to specific churches?  Let us look together at four (4) reasons why Jesus considers the church important.

First, Jesus died for it. Acts 20:28 tells us that God made overseers/pastors for the church in order “to care for the church of God, which He obtained by His own blood.”  Jesus said that He would “build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18).

Second, it is the bride of Christ.  Good husbands love their bride and seek their best interests.  Jesus loves the church so greatly that He refers to it as His bride. This is telling because a husband who does not love his wife is a terrible husband.   Ephesians 5:25-27 says:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 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.

Third, it is the body of Jesus.  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:27 “you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”  This imagery of a body is good because a body needs different parts to function properly.  Each Christian is set apart by God, brought into the body of Christ (the church) and “given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7).  For a follower of Christ to not be active in the body of Christ is as useful as a foot severed from the leg.

Fourth, it is where God chose “to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph 4:12). God has chosen to equip you for the work of ministry.  Ministry is not just something for the pastor and deacons to do.  Ministry is the work of all Christians.  God established the church as the place where you are prepared and equipped for evangelism, missions, discipleship, service, etc.

The Church must be a Priority

This next sentence may sound harsh, but if you believe the church is important you will not get offended.  If the church is not a priority in your life, then you need to examine whether or not Jesus is a priority in your life.  If the church is precious to Jesus, then it should be precious to us.  If Jesus loves the church enough to call it His bride, then we, the bride, should love Jesus enough to be known as His bride.  If Jesus cares for the church enough to call it His body, then we should be active and involved as His body.

But you may object and say, “I can be a good Christian without the church.”  Not according to 1 Corinthians 12.  The entire point of the chapter is to show that just as an ear cannot function properly apart from the body, every Christian who is not connected to the church cannot function properly as God intended.

The Christ follower should make the worship of Christ in the body of Christ a high priority.  Tragically, too many self-professed Christians have no desire to become a part of the local church. These “lone-ranger” Christians do not understand its importance nor make it a priority.

But you may object again and say, “I can worship God without the church; besides there are hypocrites in the church.”  Every person who has ever used that objection with me has used it to justify their refusal to repent of their hypocrisy.  Finding a bad mechanic should fuel your search for a good mechanic, not end your quest for a repaired car.  Finding a hypocrite in the church should fuel your search for an authentic believer, not end your quest for a life of godliness.  Make the church a priority because Jesus makes it a priority.  If you love Jesus, you should love His church.

Application

Every person who repents of their rebellion and sin against God is brought into the body of Christ, the church.  The church is vital to the growth of Christians and we need to make it a priority in our life because we need to make Jesus a priority in our life.  Jesus has established His body in Scott City and chooses to work through us.

A pastor once said: “He placed us in churches to serve, to care for others, to pray for leaders, to learn, to teach, to give, and, in some cases, to die for the sake of the gospel.”  Pray about your priorities and ask God to help you prioritize according to His will.