IMPORTANCE OF A CHURCH
I was reading the story of a church-goer who wrote a letter to a Christian magazine. He titled his letter, "I am planning to stop going to the church." He wrote: “I attended 50,000 church services in my life time. I sang more than 60,000 hymns. I did more than 80,000 prayers and I attended 20,000 Bible studies. So now, I am planning to stop going to the church.” In reply, the Editor wrote, “I understand all your experiences and all your logical explanations about not going to the church. I want to share something which is equally important and it helps you understand the importance of a church in the life of Christian." He shared his experience. “In his life time, he ate 55,000 dishes prepared by his wife, 80,000 drinks he drank and ate more than 20,000 snacks. But the most important thing is that I need all of these food and drink material today also for my physical body to exist on this earth. So, as my physical body needs earthly food to survive, my spiritual life needs the Living Word to survive in my Christian life."
I wish to bring three important things from the Early Church, the model for the Church of this era. The important things are:
A Place Of Witness
In Acts 11.26 it is written, "So for a whole year, Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch."
Paul and Barnabas spent time with the church of Antioch for one year, and people of other faiths recognised disciples as Christians. What a wonderful example from the Early Church!
Church is the community of believers where everybody is equal in the fellowship with God and with fellow believers without any caste, colour, creed, country difference. It is a place where believers learn and meditate the Word of God, give praise to the living God, thank Him for what He has done and submit intercessions, petitions, confession to Lord Jesus Christ and uphold each other in Christ Jesus.
Joel Osteen said,” You can be committed to church, but not committed to Christ, but you cannot be committed to Christ and not committed to church."
We should observe some things when we come to the church. We testify Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour and only God, We testify Lord Jesus Christ is the way, truth and life. We testify that Bible is the living Word of God. We testify that we worship the Lord who can hear our prayers, and answer it according to His will and plan, that He is the creator, sustainer and controller of the world and He gave His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to die for everyone, so through Him we get eternal life.
All these we testify without the words to the people of other faiths. Is it not wonderful? Church is a place of witness.
Lee Baxton, an American businessman and social worker, served as the Mayor of his city between 1952-1953. As Mayor, he presided in the Mayor's court, and, during his tenure, about 2,400 cases came up before him for criminal offences. Many of them either admitted that they had never been to church or Sunday school, or that they had done so a long time back. The Mayor was convinced that church-going played a crucial part in keeping down the rate of crimes. It is not necessary that all who go to the church or Sunday school won't ever commit crimes, but these activities do indeed lead to good behaviour.
A Place Of Fulfilment (Spiritual & Physical)
In a door-to-door survey conducted by Willow Creek Community Church, the question was asked: if you don't go to church, why? The five biggest reasons: 1) Boring, 2) Irrelevant, 3) Asking for money all the time, 4) I'm too busy already, 5) I feel awkward at church. The book of Acts, gives a very good example that Church is a place of fulfilment. It has a Spiritual and physical fulfilment.
First we see, Spiritual fulfilment
It is written, "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles" (Acts: 2:42-43). “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts:2: 46-47).
What an amazing picture of the Early Church. Is it not exciting when all the people are united, breaking the bread participating in Lord’s supper and spend the time in prayer?
Indian Christianity is famous for education, health and service, but it has never been famous for spirituality. Why? We are having the Word of God, we know the way of eternal life; even then, we have failed to portray the living Christ. It seems that we have become good social workers, but failed to be Spiritual leaders. The only reason is that the Church is not given the importance. We have to be very careful that churches and Christian organisations should not be changed into social complexes. It should stand for a spiritual heritage that shows the way of Salvation and eternal life for everyone.
A famous artist was asked to paint a picture of a dying church, which would be a warning to the erring members. It was expected that he would paint a small and humble congregation in a dilapidated building. Instead, he painted a stately edifice with a rich pulpit and magnificent windows and near the door, an offering box, marked ‘MISSIONS’ with the contribution slot blocked by thick cobwebs.
Methodist Bishop Hazen G.Wernor stated, "We have been dried out by the hot winds of secularism. We, who are to overcome the world, have been overcome by the world."
We have to understand that our fight is not physical, but with power of darkness which is in the spiritual realm. We can defeat them only by the power of the Word of God and the spiritual weapons, prayer and fellowship.
Billy Graham said, "I am afraid we, in the Church, are making a great mistake by trying to take Christianity popular and pleasant. We have taken the cross away and substituted cushions."
Second is, Physical fulfillment
“All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need." (Acts 2: 44-45).
In the Early Church, people provided for the needs of other church members by selling their own possessions. What a community, really concerned about the church members! The unique way of giving is also another way of learning for us. Church is a place of giving. It gives eternal life, living Word, praise, prayer, fellowship, counselling and also provide the things for needy.
A Pastor once went with his son to pray for the needs of slum people. They spent an hour to pray for all the slum people. After the prayer, the son asked his father to give him his wallet. His father said, "Why you are asking for my wallet?" He said, "Just now we spent an hour praying for the needs of these people. If we did not give to them, how God will provide for their needs? They choose you and me to provide for the needs of the slum people. It is not enough to pray, but also to act."
Church is a place of fulfilment and it is both spiritual and physical fulfilment.
God's Mission Station
“News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch” (Acts 11:22).
One of the most important works of the church is that they network and support other churches. Church is God's mission station. It is a wonderful example where Church of Jerusalem sends Barnabas to the Church of Antioch for fellowship and helps. It brings amazing testimony that disciples were called Christians.
Churches need to be united and become supportive for the first time not competitive or creating differences with each other.
Church is a place where God’s mission is supported in a godly manner. For example, supporting other churches, candidates for the ministry to go to mission work or seminaries, mission and evangelism work in the society and in other places, helping and supporting the poor, sick, and helpless, preparing the new leadership for Church and for Christian ministry and many more things to be added. It is not only a place where we just go out for Sundays. It is a community where works go on 24 hours and we are a part of the mission station to play the role which God has given to you and me.
The question is: Will Christ save people outside the church? Yes, but through the church. The Church is the organisation founded and owned by Christ. Lord Jesus Christ is the head of the Church (Col.1:18).
If we did not play our part, we kill the Church. The following poem has very powerful impact.
If You Want to Kill the Church
Never go to your church or meetings held there,
If you do go, be late, it's no one's affair.
If the weather is bad, either too hot or snowing,
Just stay home and rest, for there'll be others going.
But should you attend, be sure and remember
To find fault with the work, each official and member.
Be sure to hold back on your offerings and tithes,
The bills will be paid by the rest of the guys.
And never take office if offered the post,
But eagerly criticise work of the host.
If not on a committee, you're placed, be sore!
If you find that you are, don't attend any more.
When asked your opinion on this thing or that,
Have nothing to say, just turn 'em down flat.
Then after the meeting, shine out like the sun
By telling the folks how it should have been done.
Don't do any more than you possibly can,
Leave the work for some other woman or man.
And when you see faithful ones work themselves sick,
Then stand up and holler, "It's run by a clique!"