12/27/09

Why Church

In November I asked a simple question about what people wanted me to blog about. One asked me to define the purpose/role of the church. However, it seems to be part of a bigger question that people constantly find themselves asking, “Why Church?” Two pastors at New Life Church have already done excellent series on church (Aaron Stern’s “I like Church” and Brady Boyd’s Sunday morning series on Church) so if you really want a better answer to that question than mine, I suggest both of those series. However, in my own little corner of cyberspace, I’ll try to answer the question from both a biblical and personal perspective. There has always been a church. In the Old Testament we see the church/temple as a physical representation of the culture of the people. It represented their law, code for living, worship, forgiveness, peace, history, future, atonement, and much more than I can list. Many of the things that happened at the Temple including culture and tradition made its way into the early New Testament church. However, after Christ’s ascension Peter and Paul led the first believers around a church that was about a gathering of the people, and not about a physical building. In essence the law, history, worship, theology, teaching, and atonement could take place outside of a temple. Christ entrusted His disciples and the people with everything that took place inside of a building. The early church gathered in homes, physical places, but church is all about the gathering of people and what transpired between…not a specific building. Likewise, Churches today should function in the same way. They should only be a building where believers can gather, worship, receive teaching and understanding of the scriptures, and receive help (counseling, guidance, discipleship, etc.) When Christ died, he changed all of the rules. The power of forgiveness was now in the hands of everyone, not just any priest or any sacrifice but Christ as our ultimate priest and sacrifice entrusted his power to us through the Holy Spirit. I’m just touching the surface here of some core Christian theology, and I could potentially write a 100 pages on the subject. So, why church? When I look at the church today, I see Christ’s bride bruised, beaten, and down…but not out. It’s not just outside influences that are to blame; we ourselves have damaged the church. One of the major failings of the church that I’ve observed over the last several years is the destructive integration of consumerism into church culture. For some reason, we thought more events and more para-church ministries would benefit the Kingdom. And all of these events and para-church ministries were started and continue to be maintained with the best intentions. I’m not saying that these things are bad. Most events and para-church ministries are inherently good, but I wonder if we’ve created a Wal-mart of Christianity where people can come and go and get whatever they need to feed themselves. We thought this was good, give the people what they want and let them have their cake and eat it to. Instead of being missional, intentional, and theological, we became driven to do more. Things though began to become more about a person or date rather than Jesus. Only within the past two years or so have we realized the damage we did and now I’ve seen more and more churches making an effort to rid this infection by becoming more missional, purposeful, and theological not only on Sundays but with the events and ministries that they focus on. The church I disliked the most in the city, the one on the hill, was the one I ended up working for. The one that on occasion moves me to tears in prayer and also when I see it every morning during my morning commute. I’ve grown to the love church in so many ways that I almost feel speechless to even answer this question because I know that I can’t do it justice. Church is where I found Jesus, found friends, found love, and where I found my life. So in a roundabout way, here’s why we need the church: 1) Because everybody needs a family. A family no matter the size loves, cares, grieves, rejoices, and celebrates with one another. It’s a living and breathing body. It’s about the whole family and not just one person…don’t think of church as ichurch or my church…but our church. People grieve when you aren’t there or leave for another church, I love seeing everyone I know at church, don’t you? 2) Because it’s not about you. When you realize that it’s not about you and your needs life somehow becomes easier. You start living your life for others, serving them and loving them. You bring meaning to your life and the church is one of the best places to give of yourself. Don’t be fed, feed others. 3) Because iron sharpens iron. Isolationism breads cults and we need one another to learn from and gain wisdom from. Every cult and/or poor piece of theology has come from isolationism. I want the older generations at the church because I want to be challenged. We all need theology and history lessons from the teachers, leaders and elders. I want to be discipled through the wisdom of someone that has lived a long life devoted to Christ, with the hope that I can do the same. 4) Because Christians are to be Christ like. Christ is king and yet came to serve and not to be served. Christ cared for and loved everyone: the poor, the sick, the widows, and the children. He didn’t pick and choose who and when he could love and care for people. He was missional and purposeful, and knew what He was talking about. Christ could have gone it alone, but instead chose community. 5) Because where two or more are gathered. When we gather together for one purpose and one mission, God comes and messes with us, does stuff in us, and challenges us. God loves unity, purpose and order…not randomness and disorder. We must gather to worship, meet with God, learn, and be challenged. I’m reminded of a quote by Christopher McCandless the young man whose life was the basis for the movie, “Into the Wild.” He wrote in a book that, “Happiness is only real when shared.” Likewise, life is only real when shared in community. Without church, we’d be lost, without purpose, without wisdom, and alone.

2 comments:

Rayelle in Pella, IA said...

So I was researching somethings for the gals I mentor on denominations and why going to church is important... and I found your blog! Love your comments and will be borrowing them for my lesson if that is okay. I wanted to share with you a fun little snippet I heard too to go with this...

Why Go To Church

A churchgoer wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday. I've gone for 30 years now," he wrote, "and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. But for the life of me I can't remember a single one of them. So I think I'm wasting my time and the pastors are wasting theirs by giving sermons at all." This started a real controversy in the "Letters to the Editor" column, much to the delight of the editor. It went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher: "I've been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals. But I do know this: They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me those meals, I would be physically dead today. Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!"

Thanks for sharing! :)

Justin Steinhart said...

Thanks Rayelle...that was one of the best analogies I've heard! I was just in Pella, at 3rd Reformed church about a month ago for a night of Desperation there. Iowa is such a beautiful place!