The Benefits of My Church
Why should I go to church? Let’s be clear about the church. It is not something you just attend. Church is part of who you are. The church is a people, not a building.
A student is not a school. A student goes to a school to learn.
A worker is not a company. A worker goes to a company to work.
A community, or assembly, is made up of people who live, work, and connect in a certain way. For people who reside in this city, the assembly is called Washburn. For people who work at a company, the assembly also has a name. For people who attend a school, then the people are called students, or teachers, or administrators. For people who connect with one another by associations, we call them teams. Maybe they associate to enjoy a certain sport. Maybe they associate to enjoy a certain activity. We would never call the people who go to a sports game, a stadium. The stadium is the place. The people are the fans.
So before I talk about the benefits of the church, let me share four pictures that describe the nature of the church.
The New Testament describes FOUR PICTURES which describe the nature of the church.
FOUR PICTURES THAT DESCRIBE THE NATURE OF THE CHURCH
1. The Church Is a FELLOWSHIP. Our top priority is unity and harmony.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42, CSB)
“So then, let us pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another.” (Romans 14:19, CSB)
2. The Church Is a BODY. We operate on the basis of gifts.
“Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the proportion of one’s faith;” (Romans 12:4–6, CSB)
In an organization, “maintenance” becomes the focus. In an organism, “ministry” is the focus.
“And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:11–12, CSB)
3. The Church Is a FLOCK. We are cared for and led by shepherds.
“A second time he asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” he said to him, “you know that I love you.” “Shepherd my sheep,” he told him. He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved that he asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” “Feed my sheep,” Jesus said.” (John 21:16–17, CSB)
“I exhort the elders among you as a fellow elder and witness to the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory about to be revealed: Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but willingly, as God would have you; not out of greed for money but eagerly;” (1 Peter 5:1–2, CSB)
4. The Church Is a FAMILY. We operate on the basis of relationships, not rules.
“Finally, all of you be like-minded and sympathetic, love one another, and be compassionate and humble,” (1 Peter 3:8, CSB)
“He must manage his own household competently and have his children under control with all dignity. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God’s church?)” (1 Timothy 3:4–5, CSB)
“Don’t rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters with all purity.” (1 Timothy 5:1–2, CSB)
Personally, I love this last description of the church. To me, my local church is the extension of my local family. I will use this last description, the family, to share with you five benefits of my church.
THE BENEFITS OF MY CHURCH
1. My church family is based on the right relationship to Jesus (Matthew 16:13-16)
“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But you,” he asked them, “who do you say that I am?”” (Matthew 16:13–15, CSB)
Many people have a warped view of Jesus. They don’t see Jesus like He views Himself.
HOW THE WORLD VIEWS JESUS
John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah were three of the most popular prophets. John the Baptist was a modern-day popular prophet. Elijah and Jeremiah both represented the prophets of the Old Testament. Elijah would return and restore Israel. However, Jeremiah was a prophet that the people of Israel rejected. So the people looked forward to an “Elijah” type of Messiah. When Jesus came, the people swarmed to him. But like Jeremiah, the people of Israel would reject Jesus’ message and ministry.
The same is true today. There are people in the world who will look to a time of restoration. They look forward to a Messiah. And like the time of Israel during Jesus’ first coming, people will look everywhere for salvation. The world never views Jesus with complete clarity. One such example today is a man who calls himself Vissarion. There are over 5000 people who are following this man who claims to be Jesus, who lives in Siberia.1 He leads a group of people under the name “Church of the Last Testament.”
The world always views Jesus with earthly eyes. The Bible shows that Jesus is the God-Man, the Son of the Living God. The church is made up of people who know who Jesus is. For the Christian, Jesus is Lord and Savior. For the church, Jesus is the Head. As a Christian, when I know Jesus and keep my relationship straight with Him, then I will also see my relationship with the local church in the right way.
How I view Jesus affects my personal commitment to Him and as a result, it affects my commitment to the church. The strength of my commitment to my church is in direct proportion to the strength of my relationship with Jesus Christ. The church and Christ are linked. They can never be separated.
2. My church family is as important as my personal commitment to Jesus – “Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16)
“Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”” (Matthew 16:16, CSB)
People often tell me, “I love Jesus. I just hate the church.” No, You may like Jesus, but you don’t love Jesus. If you loved Jesus, you would love the church. Jesus and His church are like a husband and wife. When you trust one, you get the other. The church is called the “Bride.” Paul uses the family image to compare the relationship of a man and woman in marriage to the church and Christ. He tells the wives to submit to their husbands because Christ, like the husband is the head.
“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body.” (Ephesians 5:22–23, CSB)
Paul even says that the church submits to Christ:
“Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives are to submit to their husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:24, CSB)
The point is that I cannot submit to Christ alone. A Christian does not submit to Christ. The church submits to Christ.
Husbands are called to love their wives. As Paul continues to weave the connection between the husband and wife, and he uses the church and Christ as the ultimate illustration. Earlier, he compared the wife’s submission to the husband to the church’s submission to Christ. Later, he compares the husband’s love to the wife to Christ’s love for the church.
“In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, since we are members of his body.” (Ephesians 5:28–30, CSB)
Paul never says that Christ loves the Christian. Paul says that Christ loves the church.
I need others in the church. You need others in the church. That’s why I love the picture of a family to describe the nature of the church. The church is a forever family. This leads to the next benefit of the church. My church family is my spiritual community.
3. My church family is my spiritual social network – (Matthew 16:17) “blessed”, “flesh and blood did not reveal”
“Jesus responded, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17, CSB)
The church is unlike any other community on Earth. All other communities will die. One such example is America Online’s Instant Messenger.
This week, AOL announced the impending death of their instant messaging service, perhaps the first social media network on the Internet. A eulogy written for the service in Vanity Fair explained the loss that some will now feel.2
The Internet bid adieu Friday to AOL’s Instant Messenger, or more familiarly AIM. It will be laid to rest December 15 in the Internet graveyard, somewhere between LiveJournal and pets.com.
Evidence of decline had been apparent for years. There’s Slack and Whatsapp now. There was, for a time, Google’s Gchat. There’s Snapchat and Instagram and Facebook and Twitter, each with their own direct-messaging components. There was a merger (Yahoo) and an acquisition (Time Warner). There was a revolving door of leadership and pivots to video. In 2012, AOL cut AIM’s development staff, the digital equivalent of a terminal diagnosis. But to the users in its decade-long heyday, it was a touchstone for growing up, both in real life and on the Internet.
Born 1997, AIM showed early signs that it would transform how we communicate. A child prodigy some might say. Soon after its birth, its developers bestowed one of the greatest gifts to the Web: Patent US 6750881 B1 “User definable on-line co-user lists.” The Buddy List. A sophisticated social structure could be divined from just one Buddy List grouping, between “Best Friends,” “Friends,” “Best Camp Friends,” and so on. Every user knew who was online and when. Millions of teenagers yearned their first yearnings through the invention, signing off and on so their crush would notice them. They bore holes into the significant usernames rendered in pixels, willing him or her to reach out first. “what’s up,” they asked. “not much. just chillin. you?,” another answered, heart aflutter.
Through AIM, a generation learned to detect sarcasm in print, and honed passive aggression in verse. They experimented with fonts. They experimented with all the ways there are to building a relationship, including one through a computer screen.
Most meaningfully, maybe, AIM let the world’s teenagers name themselves: BabyAngle4u. Lildevilpants. DallasCowboyTilIDie. xXPigeonPowerXx. DMBfan89. RoxyGrl86. They were rarely good names, but they were theirs. Later there would be Twitter handles and business cards, but the AIM names came first.
Even social media platforms will die. They will come and go. But the church will last forever. Why is that so? Because the church belongs to Jesus.
4. My church family belongs to Jesus and He will protect it forever – (Matthew 16:18) “I will build my church”, “gates of Hades”
“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” (Matthew 16:18, CSB)
Jesus built the church. Jesus developed the original social platform. The foundation for this new social platform is Jesus, not Peter. The rock to which refers is Himself. The reason Jesus gives Simon a new name, Peter, is because this new social platform (the church), which is based on Jesus (the rock), will be a worldwide, universal platform.
The Greek word for church is “ekklesia,” which literally means an assembly. In the Garden, God created the first family, then the first clan, the first tribe, and eventually the first nation. Israel was a nation appointed by God as an example to the world. But Israel failed in their mission to be an example and to lead people to God. Jesus started with a new group, which was not defined by family, by clan, by tribe, or by nation. He started a new “social network,” a universal and eternal one.
“While I was with them, I was protecting them by your name that you have given me. I guarded them and not one of them is lost, except the son of destruction, so that the Scripture may be fulfilled.” (John 17:12, CSB)
““I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in me through their word. May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:20–22, CSB)
“For this is the will of my Father: that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him will have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”” (John 6:40, CSB)
Satan wants to destroy the church. But Jesus has the power to protect His church. He has the keys to death and Hades. This is why the “gates of Hades” can’t overpower Him.
“When I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead man. He laid his right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid. I am the First and the Last, and the Living One. I was dead, but look—I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:17–18, CSB)
Jesus is saying that He has authority over death and the temporary holding place of the dead. He has authority over where people in that place go—to eternity with God or to hell forever.3 In essence, Jesus has had power over death, and the keys to the entrance to our eternal destiny all along. There is no battle between Satan and Jesus over our destiny. You choose to go to Hell. But you were never designed to go there. Instead, Jesus conquered death (“Hades” – the place of the dead) and gives you eternal life. So Jesus will protect His church and everyone who is part of that church family forever.
This power that Jesus has, He has given some of it to the church.
5. My church family operates with authority and power (Matthew 16:19) “keys to the kingdom,” “whatever you bind and loose”
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven.”” (Matthew 16:19, CSB)
There are two phrases in this verse that describe the authority and power of the church. The “keys to the kingdom” is the authority that Jesus owns. He has authority over the church. He clearly said that when He gave the church its commission:
“Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:18–20, CSB)
In that commission to the church, where Jesus gives His marching orders, He based His orders on His authority. Our commission as the church is encased in the authority of Jesus. Since we have the authority of Jesus, we have the power of Jesus to do what He wants us to do. This power is illustrated in the “loosening” and “binding.”
This binding and loosing is not a picture of heaven doing our bidding; rather, it portrays us in harmony with heaven. Jesus is not saying, “Here are some keys. Whatever you want to do, I’ll make it happen.” No, it’s just the opposite. We are to be binding and loosing even as it is done in heaven. We are to be in harmony with Jesus.4
There was a time when the church exerted a significant amount of authority over other people. Leaders of countries submitted to the leaders of the church. Just because a church’s authority is questioned today, it does not mean that the church’s authority is false. Let me share with you this example:
In her teens, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Dillard went through a season of disillusionment with the church. In Books & Culture Philip Yancey writes:
She got fed up with the hypocrisy of people coming to church mainly to show off their clothes. Wanting to make a major statement, she decided to confront the authority of the church head-on. The senior minister … terrified her, so she marched into the assistant minister’s office and delivered her spiel about hypocrisy.
“He was an experienced, calm man in a three-piece suit,” says Dillard. “He had a mustache and wore glasses. He heard me out and then said, ‘You’re right, honey, there is a lot of hypocrisy.’”
Annie felt her arguments dissolve. Then the minister proceeded to load her down with books by C. S. Lewis, which, he suggested, she might find useful for a senior class paper. “This is rather early of you, to be quitting the church,” he remarked as they shook hands in parting. “I suppose you’ll be back soon.”
To Annie’s consternation, he was right. After plowing through four of the Lewis volumes she fell right back in the arms of the church. Her rebellion had lasted one month.
People should no more assess the church or the gospel by looking at hypocrites than they should test the value of diamonds by looking at a counterfeit. The question is, What is true? not, How have people failed to live up to the truth?5
2 Kenzie Bryant, “A Eulogy for AOL Instant Messenger,” https://www.vanityfair.com/style/2017/10/aol-instant-messenger-aim-eulogy, 6 October 2017, accessed on 6 October 2017.
3 Compelling Truth, https://www.compellingtruth.org/keys-to-the-kingdom.html. Accessed on 6 October 2017.
4 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 129.
5 Craig Brian Larson, 750 Engaging Illustrations for Preachers, Teachers & Writers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002), 62–63.