There is undeniable dissatisfaction with church among Christians around the world these days. People leave one local church for another or even stop gathering. The reasons could be worship music, length of sermon, leadership style, facilities…but I believe the underlying reason is that we misunderstand some fundamental things about the local church.
One of the truths that God used to open my eyes and affirm His call for me is the centrality of the local church. As I understand more about this truth, I learn to love and serve His church more. Let me share a few things with you.
Who owns the church?
Pastors often have a habit of saying “my church” when they talk about the congregation they pastor. Most don’t mean to imply that they own the church; but the problem is some pastors do act like owners. They are controlling and treat other members like slaves. Jesus is the one who established His church (Matthew 16:18), so He is the real owner. He loves and gave his life for her and sanctified her so that she might be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27). Does the local church we are gathering reflect the ownership of Jesus? What can we do to help others realize that Jesus is the owner?
What is the Church?
The Church is the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27), it’s not a building, but people who are saved by God’s grace. Therefore you and I are part of it. The Church is Christ’s bride (2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 21:2). There couldn’t be more intimate metaphors. God loves the Church and clearly has a special place for her. We want our love for God to be reflected by the way we treat His bride and body. So, do we go to church to serve or to be served? If we are a member of one body, then are we serving and loving other members the way we should?
What is its role?
The local church displays God’s glory, God reveals Himself through the church (Ephesians 1:11-14). God uses His church to display His wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (Ephesians 3:8-10). The world is watching us. We as the church make God visible in our community. The things done or not done by the church directly reflect how non-Christians understand God. The local church plays a unique role in reflecting God to society. As the local church reaches out, serving and meeting needs, we display God’s love and concern for all of His creation. When the church is involved, our efforts reflect Christ’s characters to or community. People will know who God is and be attracted to Him. God’s name is glorified.
As we can see God uses His church to disciple the nations, expand His Kingdom, and give a glimpse of what heaven looks like. And the local church’s collective action is much more powerful for this purpose than the actions of an individual Christian.
Christ gave different members of the church a variety of talents; together we are able to address a variety of issues. The church is called to function as a body – some are more naturally compassionate and reach out to serve the poor more easily, some pray, some give, some use their influence to fight injustice. As all these parts work together to alleviate the suffering of the vulnerable, powerful things happen.