The sentiment is snowballing. Church is falling out of favor, if not fallen. It may be for good reason, but are the reasons good enough? I’ll be the first to acknowledge how painful church can be. Like so many others, I have been hurt deeply. I’m also painfully aware that I have been the source of someone else’s pain in church.
For many, too many in fact, the answer has been to leave— to go it alone. Some are trying to get what they need from a cyber church. There are attempts to build community more organically. I don’t get that, but it’s happening. All of this is not a rejection of Christ, just His Church.
The doctrine of church is also changing to justify the shift. We are beginning to believe church, as we’ve known it, is not necessary. It’s believed, each of us is the church, and as such, there is no need to go to a building. These doctrines are not only different, they are dangerous. They are the result of cultural individualism; a high ideal, though antithetical to a biblical worldview.
I have been a harsh critic of the church, but I don’t for a moment believe the answer is to leave. What the Bible teaches compels me to stay and to labor with the people who gather in the “building.” To that end, I’d like to share 6 biblical reasons to stay, or if you have been away, to return to Church.
Our Reconciliation to The Father is Corporate
Ephesians 2:16 (NAS): 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.
The passage above is in reference to the historical founding of the church. According to Paul, the cross of Jesus Christ brought together both Jew and Gentile into one body. Jesus broke down the dividing wall between the two hostile groups, establishing one new body; one new man. Astonishingly antithetical to our individualism, it is the one reconciled group that is then reconciled in one body to God.
Because we read Ephesians 2 as an account of our personal salvation experience, we miss the historical founding of the church in corporate unity. This is an incredibly important point. Our reconciliation to the Father is corporate and not individual. This is the reason your offering would not be accepted at the alter if you know your brother has something against you. You would have to go, be reconciled to your brother first, and then present your offering. Whatever you have to offer to the Lord will have to wait until you have been reconciled to the body. If that’s not reason enough to return, here’s reason number two.
The Church is What Christ is Building
Ephesians 2:20 (NAS): 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,
Paul goes on to describe the church in the language of a building; one building. Construction of this building began in the first century. It’s built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets and Jesus is the cornerstone. Jesus is not building many individual church buildings. He is building only one, and you and I must be fitted and joined to the one building. You are not under construction. We are all together under construction.
The Church is Where Growth Happens
Ephesians 2:21 (NAS): 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord,
This passage paints a vastly different picture. It suggests that you must be fitted and joined to the one construction project that is growing into a holy temple. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit but only in so much as you are fitted together in the building.
Continuing the building metaphor, notice that Paul emphasizes that, in Christ, the whole building is growing into a holy temple in the Lord. I grew up believing, as many of you do, that we are all temples of the Holy Spirit; all individual construction projects of the Spirit.
The Wisdom of God is Displayed Through the Church
Ephesians 3:10 (NAS): 10 so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.
The finger print of individualism can be found in the growing belief that we can glorify God by our individual achievements. Paul goes on to explain to the young church that God has chosen to display His multicolored wisdom through the church. His wisdom is being displayed to rulers and authorities in heavenly place through His eternal plan to include both Jews and Gentiles in one unified body.
As much as we would like to think we can glorify God individually, it’s His determination to be glorified by our unity. This desire is reflected in Jesus’ statement that the world recognizes we are His disciples by our love for one another. And real love is characterized by endurance.
Your Gifts Are For The Good of The Church
1 Corinthians 12:7 (NAS): 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
This passage is from the book written to the gifted yet quarreling Church in Corinth. Paul gives them a necessary perspective on their gifts. He tells them their gifts are varied but they come from the same source and for the same goal. The source is of course the Holy Spirit, and the goal is the common good of the body.
The common good of the body, suggests the gifts are not indirectly good for the body because they are good for the individual. It suggest the gifts are given to directly benefit the body and not simply the individual who has the gift. The gifts, including your gift, is for the good we all hold in common. It is a misuse of the gift of God to use it apart from the body of Christ, the church.
It’s Where Fellowship With God Is Found
1 John 1:7 (NAS): 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
This great book is written to a body of believers who have stayed after others have left the church over a doctrinal dispute. John writes to encourage them that their doctrine is right and that those who have left and yet claim to walk in the light are in fact walking in darkness. To walk in that darkness and claim to have fellowship with God is a lie.
John connects the walking in light and fellowship with God to fellowship with one another. In other words, the people of God walk in the light and to claim to walk in the light and yet break fellowship with the people of God is to lie. To be in fellowship with God is to be in fellowship with the body of Christ.
Return in Faith
I know that for many, returning to the place where you have been hurt will take faith. But if a mustard seed worth can move mountains, you don’t need much. I don’t mean to minimize your painful experiences, but I must acknowledge that God can be trusted with your faith. The people of God have hurt you, but through them God can heal you. It’s not God’s plan for you to stand alone. In Christ, we stand together.
I would love to know what you think. I welcome your feedback, so drop me a note in the comment section.