The Church (Part 1)

In our current series, we have been discussing good habits for Christians.  First, we discussed the healthy and holy habit of Bible Reading and learned that the Bible is divinely inspired, divine instruction that is good for our head, heart, and hands.  Then, we discussed the importance of talking with God (talking and listening) through Prayer and the different types of prayer.  Today, we shall discuss the importance of being connected to a local church.  This habit, it must be stressed, is not an optional habit for spiritual growth but an essential habit for spiritual growth.

Having asserted that connection to a local church is essential; I can already sense the objection coming and it is: “I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.”  If you are making that objection in your mind, we will discuss today the reason that statement is false by showing that it is a misunderstanding of “church”.

Do Not Go to Church; Go as the Church

Church is People. When we talk about the church, we must be careful not to talk about the church as “It”, but “We”.  In other words, the church is not a worship service or a building, but people who are called to “gather and go”.  The church is people; namely, a group of Christians who have joined together for the sake of Christ.  Consider this statement from our Church Constitution: “It is the purpose of this church to promote the interests of the Kingdom of God by evangelizing the unsaved and seeking the spiritual improvement of its members through the Gospel as set forth in the New Testament.”  Do you see how this purpose statement reflects the church as “We” and not “It”?  The people “We”, not a service or building “It” promote the interests of the Kingdom of God and seek the spiritual improvement of its members.

People called to Go.  Consider, Matt 28:18-20.  In these verses, the focus is not so much on going to church, but gathering as the church in order to go and make disciples:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Church is not a Service, but Serving

Many times we fall into the mistaken belief that church is a service.  We can do this unintentionally when we say, “What time is church?” or “I missed church today.”  In these examples, we speak of the worship service as church.  But as we have already learned, church is not “It” but “We”.  Therefore, we must remember that church is not a service.  One helpful way to remember this is in the statement: “Church is not a service, but serving.

The Servant of All.   When you say “Church is not a service, but serving”, you are remembering that the church “We” are called to serve rather than church “It” is a service on a particular day of the week.  It will remind you that our calling as the church is to be servants.  Consider, Matthew 20:27 “whoever wants to be first must be your slave”, Matthew 23:11 “The greatest among you will be your servant”, Mark 9:35 “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all”, Mark 10:43, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant”, Luke 22:26 “the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves”, and Matt 20:26 tells us: “whoever would be great among you must be your servant”.

The Solution to our Problems.  There is an old saying: “A good dose of humility never hurt anyone.”  James wrote in James 4:1-3: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”

Church is not a Building, but Builders

Many times we fall into the mistaken belief that church is a building.  We can do this unintentionally when we say, “Let’s meet at the church” or “Is the church unlocked.”  In these examples, we speak of the building as church.  But as we have already learned, church is not “It” but “We”.  Therefore, we must remember that church is not a building.  One helpful way to remember this is in the statement: “Church is not a building, but builders.”

We Build Up. When you say “Church is not a building, but builders”, you are remembering that the church “We” are called to build one another up rather than the church “It” is a building we go to.  As the church we remember that we are to “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thess 5:11).

We Build Well.  As the church who is committed to building one another up in love, we take comfort in knowing that we build well when we build upon the foundation of Christ. (1 Cor. 3:11)  We are “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

If anyone tells you that they don’t have to go to church to be a Christian, please share with them that this is an essential habit to spiritual maturity.  Tell them that they do not go to church: it is not a service or a building.  Tell them that it is people who build and serve.