Mega church pastor Bill Hybels claims that:
“The hope of the world is not government, academia, business, but the church because it is to the church that God has entrusted the message of salvation, which truly changes people’s lives and hearts.”
Bill believes the most important thing about the church is our message.
Bill is wrong.
The message is important… but it is not the most important thing about the church, or the most important gift the church has for the world.
Bill is not alone though… Most of us have an inadequate picture of the profound nature of what the church is meant to be. I certainly did.
For 20 years I led a mission organisation, and not having a clear and strong understanding of the purpose of the church was a problem, because I often found more hope and life in the fellowship and faith I found in Fusion than in my local church.
I am not saying that my experience of church has been all negative. As my faith became my own, a series of local churches were foundational in my own life. I would not be the same person had it not been for the Broken Hill Church of Christ, Gormandale Gospel Chapel, Lindisfarne Gospel chapel, Margate Christian Church, New Peninsula Baptist church, Poatina community church, Calvary church , who all cared for my family and I in profound ways.
Although each of these churches has been important in my own journey, I need to confess that I had very limited understanding of why the church is important.
It has only been since I have been reading, studying and working as a Pastor at St. Albert Alliance church that I can see the gap between what the church is meant to be and the picture most of us have.
For 60 years we have thought that the job of the church was to communicate a message. The job of the church is so much bigger and more exciting than that.
To catch a glimpse of why the church is important, we need to turn to the Bible and let ourselves hear the multi-faceted and profound picture it paints.
There are 9 things in particular that I think anyone who goes to church needs to know about the vision and mission that they are part of.
The first is that ambivalence about the church is not really an option for Christ followers. The Bible teaches that Jesus loves the church and is the focus of his action:
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. (Ephesians 5:25-28)
“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. (John 17:20-23)
The passage primarily focusses on protection and union with God. (It is not, as is often mistakenly used, a passage about church unity; the text is very clear that Jesus is talking about our union with him.)
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
“As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” (John 20:21)
You are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord (Ephesians 2:19-21)
God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord (Ephesians 3:10-11)
Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-12)
Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. (Ephesians 4:15 -16)
The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)
Yes, the body has many different 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. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?
But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. (1 Corinthians 12: 14-20)
If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers.Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. (1 John 4:20 – 5:1)
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25)
With each other
But we’re not the same
We get to
Carry each other”