Does church matter anymore? Maybe you don’t like the idea of the church, or someone else’s idea of the church. But author Danny Franks will bet you a decades-old mission trip T-shirt that you’d love the church as she was intended to be. This series examines the community and mission that only the church can offer and why the church is worth fighting for.

This Part 3 of a four part series on Why Church Matters. Access the rest of the series here:

Tuned Out & Turned Off | Who Loves Ya, Baby | God’s Plan A | Coup in the Pew


 

 

I’m not sure anybody who calls herself a Christian would argue that the universal Church (capital C) isn’t a big deal. It’s called the bride of Christ, the body of Christ, and it’s the organism that has been given the charge to take the gospel to the nations.

 

But as discussed in the first post, the local church (little c) has received some black eyes over the years. Chalk it up to disunity, disorganization, or dysfunction, it seems there is an ever-present group of Christ-followers who love Jesus but aren’t that crazy about his wife.

 

So when a pastor starts tossing around an idea that sounds as archaic as commitment to the local church, it’s understandable that people get nervous. That notion can be about as popular as a Baby Ruth in the baptistery. (I can’t believe I typed that.)

 

If you wear the label “Christian,” I can say without a doubt that it is God’s will for you to be a part of a local church. No hesitation, no stuttering, no second-guessing. The church is God’s Plan A for your life. While the Word of God is his primary tool for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness, it is often the people of God whom he uses to sharpen, disciple, and tether us back to the Scriptures.

 

It’s because of that tethering and the “one anothering” that the New Testament pushes us into community with one another. It pushes us into a spiritual community so we can better serve our physical community. And as it was represented in Scripture, that spiritual community is best expressed through an organized local body of believers who have covenanted together to live out the gospel.

 

I have a friend who leads the “Community Engagement Team” for a national billion-dollar company. In her role, she helps thousands of employees find a way to give back to worthy organizations in their respective cities. And while I applaud any company that puts that kind of effort into bringing a little humanity back into business, I believe there is a difference between the good works of a company and the good works of the church.

 

I don’t know about you, but when my good works amount to nothing more than volunteerism, I tend to burn out more quickly. I find excuses for why I don’t need to show up this time, why I’ve already served enough, or why I’ve already paid my dues. But when works are tied to something bigger than me is when I begin to see God use my deeds to point others to him.

 

In their book The Externally Focused Church, Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson point out that throughout Scripture, the good news is always coupled with good works. You can’t truly understand the gospel of Jesus and not do good works. And you can’t allow good works to be an end to themselves…those works have to point back to the good news.

 

Being a part of a local church helps you to marry good works and good news. It helps you find your personal passion and be a part of the mission. But first, you have to commit to the body to be a part of the body.

 

Think for a moment about the types of churches that seem to be the most attractive to the outsider. Are they typically stained-glass fortresses, only concerned about the care and feeding of one another inside the walls? Or are they driven by a commitment to the gospel, an understanding of their mission, and a love for their city?

 

I believe that what will continue to make churches relevant will be a church’s desire to serve the city around them. That’s what we see modeled in the book of Acts: a group of believers who were wildly different from each other by heritage, culture, economic status, and race, but who were marked by the unity of the gospel and a desire to do good for the people who were still on the outside.

 

And just as the early believers served their city, the residents of the city marveled at the service of the believers. Acts 8 records some of the good works of believers even in the midst of intense persecution. Luke tells us in verse 8 that—because of the believers’ deeds—“there was much joy in that city.”

 

We desire our church to be the kind of church where the people of our community will say, “I don’t necessarily agree with everything those people teach, but I certainly can’t argue with how they made me feel!” That type of bridge-building only serves to make the aroma of Christ more fragrant, and helps people to eventually see their need for him.

 

The church needs you. And yes, you need the church. It needs you to see the vision, embrace the mission, and commit to the Great Commission.

 

Does the word commit still make you uncomfortable and evoke images of quaint days gone by? Fine. How about submit?

 

Author Jonathan Leeman reminds us that that’s what we’re called to do in the New Testament: to submit to those in spiritual authority over us, to submit to one another out of reverence to Christ, to place our spiritual good in the hands of others who love us and will keep us tethered to Jesus. The Christian life is one of submission: submission first to Jesus as our Lord, then submission to others, confessing that we all have blind spots and that it really does take a village to raise a child.

 

Charles Spurgeon—a dead preacher who is smarter than most of us put together—spoke to the insanity of a believer who is not also a belonger, a believer who lives their life outside of the commands of the Great Commission:

 

I know there are some who say, “Well, I’ve given myself to the Lord, but I don’t intend to give myself to any church.” I say, “Now why not?” And they answer, “Because I can be just as good a Christian without it.” I say, “Are you quite clear about that? You can be as good a Christian by disobedience to your Lord’s commands as by being obedient? There’s a brick. What is the brick made for? It’s made to build a house. It is of no use for the brick to tell you that it’s just as good a brick while it’s kicking about on the ground by itself, as it would be as part of a house. Actually, it’s a good-for-nothing brick. So, you rolling stone Christians, I don’t believe that you’re answering the purpose for which Christ saved you. You’re living contrary to the life which Christ would have you live and you are much to blame for the injury you do.”

 

I don’t believe Spurgeon is saying you can’t be a Christian if you’re not committed to the local church or that you can’t serve your fellow man apart from your fellow Christians. I do believe he’s saying it’s very difficult to be a Christian if you don’t commit to a church. The Church was given to us as a gift, a primary tool in our ongoing discipleship, a community that allows us to be a part of a greater mission.

 

Christ-follower, you owe it to your spiritual growth and your calling as a believer to be a part of something bigger than yourself. If the Church is God’s Plan A, then you have to make the local church a part of your life plan.


 

 

This Part 3 of a four part series on Why Church Matters. Access the rest of the series here:

Tuned Out & Turned Off | Who Loves Ya, Baby | God’s Plan A | Coup in the Pew