How can we accurately emphasize and do justice to the significance of that word?
It’s a complex, multi-faceted word. Its definition seems to be clear; of course, that is entirely dependent within the context in which you find it. Even within those contexts, there is great debate on what is actually being conveyed, and what is not. So, it’s really not all that clear.
Does its usage encourage certain actions and forbid others? Are there prescriptions for what exactly it should be? How do we interpret and make decisions for the future of it? What liberty are we given to even do this?
Even though we have an idea of what we think it is, make no mistake: There is much to be debated about the church.
And these debates have massive implications. For they impact the course of Christianity in history.
One thing is clear, though, Christ thought very highly of it. And he spoke often to it. He left instructions for it to follow. He continues to sustain it, and always will. He died for it. It is His bride.
His inspired Scriptures speak to all areas of life, implicitly and explicitly. I don’t want to focus here, so I will refer you to a recent topical sermon by Mark Dever, The Sufficiency of the Bible for the Church.
The church has surfaced indirectly in much of my reading lately. I was reading a book on evangelism and one of the best chapters was on the significance of the church. In a different book on Christianity and culture, the church took yet another prominent role.
Thinking about it now, it’s sad to me that I was surprised to discover such an emphasis on the church. This seems to be a commentary on today’s culture/society. My generation in particular.
I grew up in an age of individualistic Christianity. There was so much focus on the individual, and lack of teaching about the church, that we lost a vision for the church. We’ve broken down the Christian life so much that we have lost the context of it within the greater whole, the church.
Can the Christian life even function outside of the context of the church? It is even safe to look at different aspects of the Christian life outside the context of the church? I think we have focused too much on the individual at the expense of the unity of the church.
And oh how Satan has taken advantage of this. How prideful our hearts.
It still seems, though (within a few evangelical circles anyway), that we are slowly returning to an emphasis on the local body of believers, the church. I hope we are, at least, signifying an end to the individualistic Christianity that has plagued our churches, and has left us with a warped perspective on the truths of Scripture. The perspectives that are driving the machine of consumerism within Christianity that has blinded our churches. Mainly the idea that we are the ones to be served by the church, not vice versa. Giving allowance to the practice that we can hop around from church to church, never actually committing to any one community. What a great deal it is, though. We never actually have to become vulnerable. We never really have to open our lives to those other Christians around us. We never have to heed any of the actual teachings of the New Testament on unity and loving your brother and sisters in Christ.
We never have to experience trial in this area, which never allows us to grow as Christians.
Read that last statement again. This is not a good thing.
Let us grow! But this can only happen within the church. Thankfully this isn’t something you have to go looking for. This growth (in holiness) is something that can (and will) happen within the church you are currently a part of. God lead you to that place, to those people, for a reason.
Now instead of using the church to satisfy what you believe to be your longings of what the church has to offer, read the New Testament.
Open yourself to the perspective that you are a part of that church because God wants you to grow as a Christian, in the specific areas that make you want to flee to another church, as a follower and disciple of Christ.
Now don’t make the mistake of thinking this will be easy. Don’t think that everything will need to change except you. It is going to be a refining process, one that involves truly loving people, forgiving them when they wrong you, admitting when you are wrong, and the list goes on and on. But it is a beautiful process. It is one in which God receives glory every step of the way. It is a process that is only possible through the blood of Christ, in which we live.
It is the ultimate goal of our existence, of our life on this earth…
God preparing a bride for his Son.