Ever since I was a little boy, my parents have set an example of the importance of church involvement. No matter what size of church we attended, from tiny little fellowships to mega churches, my parents have been active members.
But all this involvement doesn’t answer the key question to it all:
Why does the Church exist?
Well, according to my dad, all Christ-followers within the world’s churches have God-given gifts. Some people are gifted with the ability to see clearly through tough situations and lay down the law. They can see where lives need to be changed and can efficiently reveal a need for someone to repent. On the other hand, there are other people who are gifted with an abundance of mercy and compassion. These people can identify someone who is struggling, gently take them by the hand and walk them through their tough situation. Then there are the intercessors – the prayer warriors who yearn to stand in the spiritual gap for people and plea for divine help through life’s valleys.
In just this one context, these are three distinct groups of people that exist within any church’s walls, and they are all equally important. As my dad says, the Church exists as a place for all Christians to use their God-given gifts to encourage one another, point people in the direction of God’s will, and glorify God throughout the process.
He should know. He has lived through several circumstances over the years and has dealt with the good and the bad from all three of these groups of people. There have been times when someone saw what he was doing and called his cards without a compassion/mercy filter. As a response, my dad was able to see the direction he was heading in and realize right away that the person was right and dad needed to repent. Then there were times when someone spoke just as directly with him and my dad responded, “Wait a minute – who are you to say that to me?!”
But the truth of the matter is that each church has different people with different gifts. It needs to be a community where each of these people are free to practice each of their gifts so that they can get better at them. It also needs to be a place where people need to hear the various perspectives so that they can be encouraged, corrected and trained in righteousness.
Now, of course, this is all predicated on the fact that the Church has nothing to do with buildings, steeples, stained glass, nor wooden pews. The Church is people. And the Church should be a reflection of Jesus Christ. Even in regards to all the different God-given gifts, we can see in the Bible where Jesus used each and every one of them. So, while we aren’t gifted to the same degree as Jesus, we do have the ability to use our gifts to the best of our abilities, as God has wired each of us.
But there is an important message in all this: The Church should reflect Christ.
No matter how small or how large a church may be; no matter what type of worship they feature at their services; no matter how charismatic or reserved their congregation is; no matter what denomination they may or may not belong to – if it is a church that reflects Jesus through their God-given gifts, then it will be “successful”.
Now, each congregation has its own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to working out these gifts. Smaller churches have flexibility that mega churches don’t while a church of 5,000 people typically has more resources than a church of 50 people. But regardless of size, location or resources, so long as there are people actively praying for one another, showing mercy and compassion for each other, discerning truth and speaking it into people’s lives, and working to expand God’s kingdom, then it is purposeful!
So, if that’s what defines a church, why are there so many people out there (even many who claim to be Christian) who are “anti-church”?
Sadly too many people have a preconceived idea that church-going people don’t really care about people, they only care about their programs. Or perhaps they, or someone they know, were upset by a church leader’s decision in the past so they think all churches must be just as offending at their core.
Well, the truth is that every single church (“big C” as well as “little c”) is filled with broken, sinful people – even their leaders. Consequently, many people have been burned by the mistakes of these broken, sinful people. Too often, then, these people who have been hurt allow this pain to turn into disdain for the “big letter C” Church, that is the global Christian community of people who have decided to follow Jesus.
That being said, according to my dad, it’s the Church’s responsibility to correct this inaccurate perception. Not the church leaders, but the Church. My dad believes that it’s the pastor’s job to train and equip the people of his congregation to go out and do the Church’s work. Unfortunately, too many people within the world’s congregations (as well as outside of the Church) behave as though it’s the pastor’s job to cover all the Church’s bases and be the “gunslinger” who is out taming the wild west, as well as taking all the shots fired back.
Yet, if each church-goer seizes the opportunities that they are given each day to do the Church’s work, the false perception of Christianity can easily be reversed.
What each individual person needs to keep in mind is that churches are designed to be like hospitals. They should be places that want to serve people, to heal them and make them well. They should not be places that are just after your money or time. When we view church more like a hospital, then we should be more eager to help people learn and exercise their God-given gifts, and then they eagerly help other people and so on and so on.
Yet still, there are people who say that they don’t need a church to have a healthy relationship with God. To them, all that is important is their own personal relationship with Jesus.
My dad disagrees.
In today’s society, there is so much information available, anyone can hear some of the best Bible teachings from the comfort of their own sofa, or wherever they want to be on their smartphone. But “the church” isn’t simply about hearing good music and quality teaching. The servanthood part – being able to serve other people and them being able to serve you – needs to occur between and amongst people’s lives. This makes “Lone Ranger Christianity” a myth. In order to successfully grow as a Christian, each of us needs to actively belong to a community of Christ-followers.
It’s by being surrounded by a church that people learn life’s toughest lesson: It’s not all about me.
Once we learn that lesson, then we can more accurately reflect Jesus Christ in our lives.
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