What do you think of the Church - really?
Institutions as a whole are under fire, yet few institutions get more criticism than the church. So how do you think about the value of the Church, along with its nature and its function?
First, why does the Church have a surpassing Value? The Church of Jesus is not a thing. The Church is a single term for all of the people Jesus has redeemed, past, present and future, and its value (their value?) is marked by His willingness to shed His blood to rescue each and every one of us. God, in Christ, left heaven to claim people like us! Now, what institution, gathering, team, group or even nation has as much value as Jesus’ Bride? And how do you think Jesus feels about people bad-mouthing His Bride?
How do you value the Church? Not a building. Not even a meeting. But the people?
Second, what is the nature of the Church? The nature of the Church is one of a supernatural relationship imparted from God made real and worked out in space and time. So there is a mystery to the Church that all of these people are in relationship with God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, AND therefore all of these people are in relationship with one another. But at its very essence, the Church is heavenly in its origins while it is very earthly in its setting. So the Church lives in a sort of sustained tension, like pilgrims, living here, but not yet home. Literally, the Church is a little bit of heaven here on earth.
How have you felt this tension? How can you get too focused on earth? Or how can you be enthusiastic about the relationship part with God but not so much about relationship with others?
And last, what then is the function of the Church? God’s People together share at least a three-dimensional function. The Church has an upward movement in worship (we cry “Abba! Father” by virtue of our new birth in the Holy Spirit). We have an inward-building instinct toward others within the Body (we are members one of another called and gifted to build up one another). And the Church has an outward impulse towards others who do not yet believe, yet someday might (we bear witness of Jesus’ saving Grace and we welcome other sinners to join us in trusting Him).
As was His custom, Jesus went to the synagogue… a term that inherently means a gathering together. This means that God in human form had the established habit of going to Church. A gathering implies having been alone or away from this current collection of people. And God’s Word is clear (see Isaiah 53 or Romans 3) that all of us, like sheep, have turned aside to our own way. Yet a gathering implies being called to join more than one. As God’s people, together redeemed and now wed to Jesus, HE says we are now His family when once, in our sin, we were His enemies. And a gathering implies a center point or hub of the circle. And the Church is the Church OF JESUS. And He calls us into relationship with Himself at the HIGHEST COST, conferring on us the highest value. He calls us into relationship with Himself and with His people. And worshiping the LORD, encouraging one another, and lovingly reaching out to others, He calls all of us to be transformed by His love and power.
How have you criticized the Church, perhaps recklessly, and now you need to repent? How have you neglected to be part of the Church’s work of building and growing, so that the Church’s weaknesses and gaps could be remedied? And how have you simply missed the value that God has placed on His people, no matter how rattled, frail and wrong we’ve been?
He is still gathering people like us, and there is still plenty of room for you!