Why should we go to church? There are a lot of opinions on that question, but what does the Bible have to say? Is going to church really necessary? What are the benefits and the challenges? Before we get into all that, let's define the word "Church".
What is the Church?
The word "church" used in Scripture comes from the Greek word, "Ekklesia", meaning "to call out." This is our first clue that the church is not primarily a building, but a people, "the called out ones." But called out for what? Called to see and participate in the Kingdom of God! God's Kingdom is his rulership, his government. It comes anywhere it has been welcomed, starting from within and working its way out. According to what Jesus said in John 3:5-8, the only way for an individual to see the Kingdom of God is to be "born again". Now the Kingdom has come within. This is the point that we take on our true identity as members of God's household. Of course, this is only the beginning! We don't enter the Kingdom and remain children! (Ephesians 4:13-15). God desires to partner with mature sons and daughters to bring his Kingdom to the world. Remember the Lord's prayer? "Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven," (Matthew 6:10). The Church is God's royal family, those who act as his representatives in the world. I Peter 2:9 says, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." With that as a backdrop, let's talk about God's vision and heart for his Church.
God's Vision for His Church
In God's Word we are presented with a number of different views of the Church: the Family of God, the Bride of Christ and the Body of Christ. These pictures help us understand our relationship to Jesus Christ and to one another. Regardless of which perspective is currently being emphasized, Christ is the head. (I Corinthians [12:27]; Colossians [1:18]; Ephesians [5:23]). It is his will that is to be done.
In a nutshell, God's vision for his Church is:
- To represent Christ in the world by bearing fruit that remains and by proclaiming the Kingdom of God. "You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you." (John [15:16]; Isaiah 61:1-4)
- To make disciples of all nations. Discipleship begins once an individual realizes they are a sinner, repents of sin and is born again, and then baptized. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew [28:19]-20)
God's Heart for His Church
God's heart is that his people learn to walk in increasing unity, love, worship, and maturity. Yes, he knows how frail we are (Psalm 103:14)--which is why he has given us his Holy Spirit as our helper. Though it may not seem like it now, the Bride of Christ will in time reach maturity. The book of Revelation makes it clear that, in the end--we win! So don't give up!
The unity of the Church was of utmost concern to Jesus while here on earth, and it obviously still is today. Yes, the Body of Christ must be one in the essential doctrines of the faith, but we must also learn to walk in harmony with one another. Just before going to the cross to complete his mission, Jesus prayed, "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John [17:21]-23).
The Harmony of Believers
- Philippians 2:1-30 ". . . being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind."
- Ephesians 4:3 "Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
- Romans 12:5 "So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
- I Corinthians [1:10] ". . .that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgement."
- Romans [12:16] "Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never we weise in your own sight.
- I Corinthians [12:25]-27 " that there may be no division in the body, . . .the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together."
- Psalm 133:1-3 Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity!"
God's goal for his people is that they may become perfectly one--which we all know is impossible with man. It can only be achieved through the power of the Holy Spirit. Let's unite, as believers, on what we can agree on, rather than dividing over what we cannot agree on. Lord, revive your church by your Holy Spirit that the words of Jesus in John 17 would come to pass in our lifetime!
Why should we go to church? One reason is to demonstrate to the world what the love of God looks like here on earth!
- Ephesians 4:1-6 ". . .with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love. . ."
- I Peter 3:8 "Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.
- Romans [1:11]-12 "Let love be genuine. . . love one another with brotherly affection."
- I Peter 4:8-11 "keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins."
- Hebrews [10:24]-25 "And 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."
Scripture is clear that we are to gather together to to love one another, encourage one another, and to stir up one another to love and good works. Exactly how we are to do those things is something that God leaves up to us, as long as we carry his heart. Each local church fellowship will have a different approach when it comes to expressing love. That's good--because Father God loves to see the creativity of his children!
Praise and worship should always be a part of our daily lives as individuals; but there something so powerful about worshiping him as we assemble together. Here are a few examples of what the Word has to say on this topic:
There are many expressions of worship given to us in the God's Word: clapping hands, raising hands, bowing down, shouting, singing, dancing, playing instruments, etc. Each local congregation can decide what their particular emphasis will be. Some churches are quieter, some are louder, some dance, and some do not; but at the end of the day, Father God is happy with any expression worship that we offer sincerely from our hearts to him.
It is God's desire that his children grow up! Just as an earthly father desires to partner with his adult children, so Father God desires to co-labor with his sons and daughters in his work. (Ephesians [4:11]-14) What is the process God uses to mature us? He uses apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds (pastors), and teachers. (Ephesians [4:11]) Operating primarily through the local church, the purpose of the five-fold ministry gifts is to:
- Equip believers for their ministry
- Build up the Body of Christ (fostering unity, the knowledge of Christ, and maturity)
- Repove, rebuke, and exhort with patience (II Timothy 4:2)
Why should we go to church? One reason is so we can receive be equipped, built up, and occasionally even corrected. Since we all have blind spots, this should be something that we welcome! (Psalm 141:5)
The Work of the Church
God loves people through his Church. He sends his sons and daughters into the world as change agents, demonstrating his goodness. In Matthew 5:13-15 , Jesus said, "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[b] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."
Specifically, how does God want to use his Church in the world? Through purity (Matthew 5:13; Ephesians 5:27) and good works (Matthew 5:16; Ephesians 2:10). God's sons and daughters must be separate from the evil system of this world (I John [2:15]-17) but not isolated from people in the world. Jesus was the perfect example of what he taught. He never yielded to temptation, yet he often mixed with people who were looked down upon by the religious "leaders" of his day. Here are some of the statements he made which give us an idea of what he expects from us as his representatives:
John [14:12]-13 Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me[e] anything in my name, I will do it.
Mark [11:23]-24 "Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received[a] it, and it will be yours."
Mark [16:17]-18 "And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
Matthew 10:1 "And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction."
I Corinthians [12:10] "To another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues."
Matthew 10:8 "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay."
We are presently seeing a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit on God's people in in the world like never before. God is preparing his Church for a final great harvest. Joel [2:28]-29 says, "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions." All over the world the Holy Spirit is coming in power on his church. Wherever the glory of God comes. people are being healed of incurable diseases. New limbs are suddenly appearing. The blind are seeing, the deaf are hearing, and the dead are being raised.
Finding a Healthy Local Church
Not sure what a healthy local church looks like? Check out this article: "10 Signs You're in a Healthy Church". In addition, we'd like to add the following:
- Be sure the church's essential doctrines are biblical. Read their statement of faith online and compare each point to Scripture. (See "Essential Doctrines" above.)
- Check the government of the church. Does one man do it all, or is there an eldership that makes the decisions? Who is overseeing the eldership? How much accountability actually takes place?
- Is the Holy Spirit welcome in the church? To what degree? Discover how the gifts of the spirit are operating and how they are governed. (I Corinthians [14:26]-40)
Once you find a healthy church, put down roots! There are healthy church out there, but there is no such thing as a perfect church. Be prepared to weather the storms that will come. When problems arise, communicate with leadership; don't just leave without first trying to work things through. Remember that unity is what Jesus is looking for. Foster it any way you can!
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