"I DON'T NEED THE CHURCH!"... IS THIS TRUE?
November 16, 2019
Two things have stirred the focus of my writing this week: (1) the deaths of two of our church members: Karen Markstrom and Tim Kofstad, and (2) some reading I have been doing concerning worship (in the book, Behold your God, by John Snyder). These two things have heightened my awareness of the importance of the church in the lives of all of us who have placed our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. This living commitment has brought us into the "kingdom of God," and calls us into community with other believers which defines what the church is. The original use of the word we translate as, "church," defined a group of people called out of the broader populace for a specific purpose. The earliest Christians borrowed the term to define themselves collectively.
Now from very early in the history of the Christian Church there have been those who have maintained a posture of, "I don't need the church!" For others it's a matter of "neglect" which we'll examine in the scriptures shortly. By the way, neglect can be habit forming.
As I have mentioned in an earlier article research among those from evangelical churches who are leaving the church in growing numbers, frequently give as their reason. "I've accepted Jesus as my Savior, I don't need the church." For folks of this persuasion I would suggest a couple of considerations: (1) Your stand is unbiblical. (2) If you get to have a one on one with Jesus in eternity and he asks you to share with him your relationship with His Church on earth, will this be your response?
Neglecting the church, however, isn't just among evangelicals, it's found in most, if not all, expressions of the Christian Church. There are those who drop out of church who were baptized as infants, hung around until they were confirmed and then left. They'd done their deal for the church, God, and of course their parents. Are they missing something? I'll never forget meeting with a young man who was in jail in Superior, Wisconsin. I was working with Youth for Christ in Duluth at the time. I think it was either his mother or grandmother who asked if I would see him. Early in our conversation I asked him if he had any "spiritual identification" in his background. I'll never forget his immediate response: "Yeah, I was baptized as a baby...but it didn't do any good!" My response was, "That's pretty obvious, or you wouldn't be in here right now." That was the end of our spiritual conversation.
Others stay away from the church because they "can't find one they like." Is this the main reason for being a part of a church? Others have told me, "Church is boring!" On occasion I've heard, "my parents made me go to church when I was growing up, so I don't go now." How about "I just don't have time!" How many of the things that take up all your time are going to pass away some day along with yourself?
All these exiting the church statements reveal a misunderstanding of the church and its role in our lives. God's Word defines the church as the, "body of Christ." The apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:22, 23: "And God has put all things under the authority of Christ, and he gave him this authority for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; It is filled with Christ, who fills everything everywhere with his presence." The church, God's people in Christ, is his "body." I believe this is a Holy Spirit inspired metaphor given to Paul. Paul takes this metaphor apart in 1 Corinthians 12. Here are some brief samples. Verse 12: "The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up only one body. So it is with the body of Christ. In verses 14-17 he continues: "Yes, the body has many parts, not just one part. If the foot says, "I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand, that does not make it any less a part of the body" etc. Paul says God has created, "harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other equally. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad" (verses 25, 26). On the second one that's why we clap on Sunday morning when one of our young people, or a whole sports team has excelled. Verse 27: (pay attention if you've dropped out of our church): "Now all of you together are Christ's body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it." There's no room for absenteeism in the body of Christ no matter what community of believers you identify with; making allowances, of course for, sickness and vacations. "I just couldn't get out of bed!" doesn't cut it. I also talked with a family one time when I lived out on the West Coast who told me, "We have our church at home watching Christian programs on TV." No community in that!
Who rejoices when we come together with God's people? Jesus! It's HIS CHURCH, you know, and he knows what part of the body he designed you to be. Who cheers when you choose not to get out of bed on Sunday morning, or take the stand, "I don't need the church, I've accepted Jesus as my Savior?" That's not rocket science. The Devil! Do you want to be in his cheering section instead of cheering for God through worship with God's people?
To introduce another metaphor, I see removing yourself from the body of Christ as an act of spiritual amputation. The body is not complete without you. God's word says that.
Now, I want to pull out the phrase from verse 26: "If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it." Paul raised this up in Romans 12:15 when he wrote: "When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow." We have been and will continue to do this with the Markstrom and Kofstad families. It is a function of the body of Christ when some in the family are hurting. We share their sorrow through our presence, our tears (Jesus set the example), our hugs and our caring words. Also there are meals and our prayers. Now I'm not implying that caring and sharing doesn't come from people outside of our church, even people outside the Christian Church, but there can be a deeper expression of suffering and care with those we are with regularly in the family life of the church.
Now concerning worship. Worship should be the expression of how we live: lifting up our Lord in all that we do or say. Paul wrote in Colossians 3:17: "and whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father." But this is not the same as gathering together in "the house of the Lord" to worship him in a special kind of way. David expressed his feelings about this in Psalm 122:1: "I was glad when they said to me (he was encouraged by others), Let us go to the house of the Lord" In the Old Testament God's people came to God's house (first the tabernacle then later the Temple) to experience the presence of God and to express themselves to him through worship. It was their primary reason for being there; everything else, including being with each other was secondary. How about our reason for being in the house of God?
What's our mindset while singing the chosen hymns for the morning? I find it easy to just sing the songs, and I'm trying to change that in my life. The words of the songs have meaning; either to express ourselves to God or to each other; maybe both. I want to lift up my soul to God in Worship, not just sing a song. In our church when we sing a hymn that has the pronoun, "him" (a reference to God or Jesus) in it I change the pronoun to "you," and work at lifting up God in worship. Sometimes I say to myself while singing, "Thank you, Lord." But everything in our "services of worship" can be an expression of worship. The morning offering is a good example. Do we give our tithes and offerings to God as an expression of worship, or just to the "work of the church?"
I'd like to close with Hebrews 10:24,25: "Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds" (This comes through presence). "And let us not neglect our meeting together as some people do, but encourage and warn (accountability) each other, especially now that the day of his coming back is drawing near", NLT. What if the Father would have Jesus return on a Sunday morning; in our time zone? Where would he find you? We all need the church, and guess what , the church needs us (YOU)! Don't amputate a part of the body of Christ. Jesus will feel the pain!
Until Next Time,
Update...Joe fell on the ice as he was getting out of the car around 3 p.m...he has a fractured rib in front of his rib cage....he has to take deep breaths 10 times an hour and cough each time...it is to keep from getting pneumonia which can happen with to many shallow breaths...poor Joephus..he can't lift, or shovel...he is kind of worried about that...it will take 6 weeks to heal providing no complications..uffda
Update update... When he went in to the emergency room they told him that 3 people with fractured ribs came in before him....it is very icy and still is...all over town..he had just dropped me off at work...then did a couple of errands and wherever he was..getting out of the KIA..he went down...then he said he didn't want anyone to see him because they would have called an ambulance...so he crawled back into the car...couldn't fasten his seat belt...and groaning drove himself to emergency...he is... (using one of Jodi's words "very naughty")..He told me that he doesn't want anyone to know where he was because he doesn't want to be yelled at..so I promised I wouldn't tell...now...that doesn't make me naughty!!!