I am so grateful for the home in which I grew up. On Sunday mornings we did not wake up and decide whether we should go to the church services or stay home and sleep in—it was not a choice. Sunday, the Lord’s Day, was the day that the body of Christ in my local area would gather together as a church to fellowship, serve, and worship through singing, prayer, and the ministry of the Word. After all, isn’t this what my parents were supposed to teach me, as dictated in the Word of God?
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 instructs parents to diligently teach their children about God’s ways. However, this is not just an Old Testament injunction. In Ephesians 6:4, Paul exhorts fathers to take the initiative to raise their children in the training and admonition of the Lord. That training takes place formally in two places: in the home, where most living takes place, as well as at church, which is God’s educational institution here on earth where He gave pastors and teachers to equip the saints, to perfect them in their walk with God (Eph 4).
Ironically, one church proposed to have a “no-excuse Sunday.” To make it possible for everyone to attend church they organized this special Sunday. They proposed, “Cots will be placed in the foyer for those who say, ‘Sunday is my only day to sleep in.’ There will be a special section with lounge chairs for those who feel our pews are too hard. Eye drops will be available for those with tired eyes from watching TV late Saturday night. We will have steel helmets for those who say, ‘The roof would cave in if I ever came to church.’ Blankets will be furnished for those who think the church is too cold and fans for those who say it is too hot. Score cards will be available for those who wish to list the hypocrites present. Relatives and friends will be in attendance for those who can’t go to church and cook dinner, too. We will distribute ‘Stamp Out Stewardship’ buttons for those who feel that church is always asking for money. One section will be devoted to trees and grass for those who like to seek God in nature. Doctors and nurses will be in attendance for those who plan to be sick on Sunday. The sanctuary will be decorated with both Christmas poinsettias and Easter lilies for those who never see the church without them. We will provide hearing aids for those who can’t hear the preacher and cotton for those who say he is too loud.
I trust that by now you understand the similarity as well as the importance of both metaphors in the Bible about church. It is an organism, a spiritual union of believers made possible through salvation in Christ Jesus. It is also an organization, a working union of believers. The organizational church has been defined as “a body of believers immersed upon a credible confession of faith in Jesus Christ, having two offices (elders and deacons), sovereign in polity, and bonded together for work, worship, the observance of the ordinances, and the worldwide proclamation of the Gospel.” Notice please that this is called the church of the Living God.
The church should be thriving, seeking through the Holy Spirit’s power to show a dead world a living Lord. Paul doesn’t conclude his message here. He goes on to share the mission for the church. How is it to function, primarily? He uses architectural language and calls it the pillar and ground of truth. It is the church’s primary function to hold up God’s truth in the world. It is the church that offers the world a foundation not built on sinking sand but on the bedrock foundation of God’s truth. As the church is faithful to preserve, preach, and practice the truth, God’s work during the age in which we live will prosper.
Does this sound like works? You bet! The ministry of the church is part of the works He has saved us unto (Eph 2:10). God left us here to work for Him and with Him until He returns or calls us home. It is the unfaithful Christian, who either is ignorant of God’s plan or disobedient to it that is wrecking the very foundation of God’s truth in the world. As a teacher who observed this kind of carnage for over thirty years in the pastorate, Charles Scheide records, “Unfortunately, there is a lot of wrecking going on today. Many churches are afflicted with an unbelievably high percentage of unfaithful members who manifest little or no interest in the mission of the church. They meander merrily on their way, ignorant and unconcerned of the spiritual damage they leave in their wake.”
If only more Christians had the testimony of a certain little old man who was seen every Sunday morning walking to church. He was deaf, so he could not hear a word of the sermon or the music of the choir or the hymns sung by the congregation. A scoffer asked, “Why do you spend your Sundays in that church when you can’t hear a word?” That old saint’s humble reply was, “I want my neighbors to know which side I’m on.”
I wonder, is that your desire? It is time all who claim the name of Christ started believing in the importance of the local church and started supporting with every fiber of their being this “pillar and ground of truth” that Jesus died to establish and promised to build. See, it’s all about Him. He is its living, exalted, and sovereign Head. He bought it with His blood. He planned it before the foundation of the world. He gets first place. He established it (Acts 20:28; Eph 5:23; 1:4; Col 1:18; Matt 16:13-18).
In conclusion, it is of utmost importance that the followers and learners of Christ be instructed and exhorted on how to live the joy-filled Christian life. At the local church we receive the milk of the Word for growth (1 Pet 2:2); the pastor-teacher feeds his flock in knowledge and instruction (Jer 3:15); fellowship is provided (Acts 2:41-47); preaching and teaching grows faith (Rom 10:17); and saints are trained and equipped for ministry (Eph 4:12). With so many blessings and motivations, why should anyone not want to be an active part? May I suggest that the reason, in several cases, is a willful disobedience to the clear injunction of
Hebrews 10:24-25 to faithfully and actively gather for the mutual edification of fellow believers, as we exalt our Great God. I trust that is not the case with you.
If you are part of the body (universal church), you should be functioning in ministry (local assembly) according to your giftedness. We need lives centered around the church. Our priority should be church, fitting in the rest of life’s ambitions around it. We need to be there and fulfill God’s plan for body life and service, according to our giftedness. If you are sporadic in attendance or inactive in service, you will miss out every time you’re not there, either by not receiving a blessing or not being a blessing (but probably both).
Let’s go to church to be the Church and help the body function appropriately.
Let’s engage in the worship, the songs, the prayers, the preaching—not by spectating but by participating!