If you’ve been a reader of this blog for any amount of time, it will come as no surprise to you that I love the Church.
I’ve written about why I think the church is important, and how much I love it here and here.
Yet, I couldn’t let another #theologytuesday series pass by without taking the time to share some thoughts on the Church.
And it seems I’m not the only one intrigued by this topic.
As I’ve chatted with the women in my Facebook challenge, as well as other friends and colleagues, it seems like a lot of people are asking questions about the Church. Questions like:
- Why does the Church matter?
- What should a God-honouring church look like?
- Where do my kids/teenagers/family fit into the Church?
- It’s SO hard to get to church on Sundays… does it really matter if we go? (Okay, I’ve asked that & I’m the pastor!)
I think these questions are important ones. Asking them shows we’re thinking theologically, which makes me excited.
Asking the hard questions about church and its place in our lives means that the answers we reach will be ones we truly believe in.
When we tackle issues in theology, it means we’re not just taking things at surface value.
When we start thinking about the Church at a deeper level, it means that we’re not just going to church because we think it’s something we are obligated to or even just something “good” to do. It means when we attend church and talk about church, we’ll be doing so with a deeper purpose in mind.
So, let’s take a few minutes to dive into these questions.
WHY does the Church matter?
In today’s world, life is busy. There are more programs, groups & events then generations previous could have ever thought possible. Church sometimes seems just like one more thing to add to our lists.
Add to this the fact that we have such a vast amount of information at our fingertips. Within a matter of seconds, you can access high-quality teaching, worship music and sermons with a mere click or two. You can do this without having to take your pyjamas off or try to wrangle your kids out the door.
So, why bother with Church?
Why does it matter?
For me, the best starting place is that the Church should matter to us because the Church matters to Jesus.
So much in fact – He is willing to give up everything for it. Listen to these words from Ephesians 5 in the Message Version:
Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness.
Throughout the New Testament, we see a picture of Jesus being absolutely in love with and passionate about the Church. It is the Church – that group of believers who follow Him – that He died on the Cross for. The Bible uses consistent imagery of the church as Christ’s body and His bride – images that denote something incredibly important. The Church truly matters to Him.
If then, we are trying to follow Christ, the Church should matter to us too.
We should allow His love for the Church to be present in our lives.
Beyond that though, I think the Church matters for a number of practical reasons. Here are a few, quickly:
- The Church provides a place for us to spend time with other believers (Hebrews 10:24-25, Romans 12:25).
- The Church is a place where we can be built up in our faith – through others and the work of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:12, Colossians 3:16, Matthew 18:20).
- The Church allows us to be a place of something greater – a community with a common purpose. (Acts 2:42, Ephesians 2:21-22, 1 Peter 2:5)
What does a God-honouring church look like?
I think it’s important to pause here for a moment to make a distinction between big-C “Church” and little-c “church.”
When we use big-C Church, we are talking about followers of Jesus all around the world who collectively make up the Church around the world. This is one unified body!
Little-c church is the expression of that Church in a particular area. For example, I am a part of Christ’s universal Church, but also of my local church in Clarenville.
So when we talk about looking for a God-honouring church, we are talking about on the local level. If you’re deciding to look for a church to attend with your family week-to-week, what should you look for?
Some parts of church life are simply a matter of preference. You may prefer a more structured service – with liturgy and a clear start and end time. Maybe you prefer a service with more spontaneity. You may like newer worship music or older hymns. It’s important to remember – any style of the church can be God-honouring.
There are some criteria though that should be present in a church in order for it to be God-honouring. While opinions differ exactly on what that is, I think we can boil it down to a few key things. First of all, a God-honouring church should have Jesus at the center of everything it does. Whether you attend one service or one hundred, a church that honours God should mention Jesus at every turn. The songs they sing, the words they speak, the prayers they pray – all of them should point to Jesus.
Secondly, a God-honouring church should be a loving community. I find it very hard to believe that a church can be honouring God while division, disunity and distance exist. The Church exists to love one another, bear each other’s burdens and lift one another up. If this isn’t happening, I would question if that church is truly honouring God.
Finally, a God-honouring church should make space for the Holy Spirit to be at work. I’m a Pentecostal, so the way I understand this to be true may be different than yours. But regardless of if your church follows a liturgy or goes with the flow, the Holy Spirit needs to be given space to work in your midst. I actually believe this can happen when an entire service is scripted and planned. An invitation for the Holy Spirit to be at work – convicting hearts, speaking truth and making Jesus real to us – can happen regardless of style. What needs to be present is just that – an invitation.
Where does my family fit into this?
Sometimes, we think that asking about what place our kids and teens have in the church is simply a practical question and not a theological one.
However, I’m a huge advocate that what we believe about the church informs even this question.
Pages & pages have been written about how various generations fit into the church, but let me give you a summary version.
I believe that the church should integrate all generations, while also serving the needs of individual generations.
In order to achieve the unity that Jesus advocated for, believers of every age group need to be a part of the church at large – building relationships and encountering Jesus together.
However, it is true that each generation has unique needs that need to be served by unique ministries and programming.
I love the way Timothy Paul Jones sums this up:
We are called to nurture one another within a rich matrix of intergenerational relationships. When this dynamic takes root in a church, children and teenagers whose parents aren’t believers find their lives intertwined with more mature believers who become spiritual parents and grandparents. Married couples mentor singles, and new parents learn child-rearing from empty nesters. The entire congregation works together to meet the needs of widows and orphans (James 1:27). The dynamic of church-as-family declares that, inasmuch as I am united with Jesus Christ and adopted in him, my first family includes anyone who does the will of our Father in heaven (Mark 3:35).
With all this in mind, I think the last question – does it really matter if I make the effort to attend church – answers itself.
The big-C Church matters, and in turn, being a part of the little-c local church matters.
It matters because the Church matters to Jesus.
It matters because it allows us to encounter God and be encouraged.
And it matters because it allows our families to be a part of a larger family – His Family.