Christianity is not simply a personal relationship with Jesus because there are implications about how we should live as followers of Jesus. Most visible is the relationship we have to the body of Christ.
There is an ongoing participatory relationship in Christianity, and simply put, church is not optional.
Church Matters: for some people, church attendance is boring and unpleasant, like a chore one must do. Other people sense the church is a buffet of programs and events (Bible study, camps, retreats, podcasts, sermons) that seek to help them in their spiritual growth. For the former, church doesn’t matter, but for the latter, church has a purpose, but it doesn’t matter if you drop in and out of some items, there are plenty of other options from which to choose.
According to the Bible, church matters. Participation is not simply a side dish we skip if we already have a full plate. The church should be central in our lives because God made his plan of salvation clear, and his way of developing spiritual maturity is also very clear.
The Church, at the Center of God’s Saving Plan: From the beginning, God’s created people to be in community, just look at Adam and Eve, it is not good for man to be alone. Abraham was promised to be the father of many children and nations. When Jesus walked the earth, did not not call individuals but the Twelve to be his disciples (Mark 3:14). The book of Acts is full of stories about God not calling individuals, but gathering people into a community called the church. Notice God’s purpose for the church in Ephesians 3:10-11.
The Church, at the Center of Christian Growth: Take a look at Ephesians 4:11-16 and notice the purpose of pastors and teachers. We grow as we connect to others through the church. What might you do to better connect to a local congregation?
Image is Everything: How might we detect when a church is healthy or unhealthy? When we talk about image, it is not about physical appearance, but the image of God. We are created to reflect God’s kingdom, his rule and reign over the earth (Genesis 1:26-28). After the fall, Christ came to restore the true image of God (Colossians 1:15) and we are to grow into the image (2 Corinthians 3:18).
A Healthy Church is therefore a congregation that increasingly reflects God’s character as his character has been reveal in the Bible. This means we are constantly growing into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18). This is a life-long process called sanctification. All that we know about God we learn through his self-revelation, we call the Bible. It is our only source for faith and practice. We learn who God is and what he is like by reading the Word of God. Read Isaiah 6:1-7 and discover what we know about God’s character.
The Two-step Plan to a Healthier Church: the answer is simple. We are to LISTEN to God’s Word and FOLLOW after Jesus. Read the Word and put it into practice (James 1:22-25, Matthew 7:24-27). Either we build our lives on God’s Word or we don’t; we’re just playing theological games. Mere hearing is not enough.
The Most Important Thing About the Church: Some might say it’s their Sunday School class, youth group, worship, music, missions efforts, food pantry, activities, or even the family life center. Really, the most important thing we must do is expose people to God’s Word every week, and according to the author, that involves expositional preaching.
So, what is expositional preaching? It is preaching that exposes God’s Word, getting the meaning out of the text, explaining it, and helping us to apply its truths. It reveals God’s Word to God’s people. What inspired the author to write this passage? How does it apply to them and then apply to us? (2 Timothy 3:16-17, 4:1-5).
Without God’s Word preached or explained, there will be no faith (Romans 10:17) and sinners won’t experience death to life (1 Peter 1:23). Everything else the church does should flow from the preaching of God’s Word. We will grow to love what God loves and hate what God hates. All of this will spill over into everyday life.
So, listen up! How often do we leave church only to fail at remembering what we just heard? Take notes. Pray over the text and what was preached. Actively and attentively listen. How we listen reveal something about what we believe about God and his Word. God expects us to listen, trust, and obey. Consider what you expect to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4). How might you respond to what you hear (Acts 17:10-11). How might you discern between truth and error? Listen in order to be transformed and obedient (James 1:22-25, Luke 13:17).