A lot of people in America go to church. Some more than others. But why do we go to church? What is the purpose? Some people go to church their whole lives, but what have they gained? Some people go to a different church every Sunday, finding it hard to settle down. Many complain, “I don’t feel like I’m being fed”, or, “I just don’t feel encouraged”, or maybe even, “I just don’t fit in there”.
What is church for? What is supposed to be happening when we walk through those doors on Sunday? Are we supposed to get “fed”? Are we supposed to feel “encouraged”? Should we “fit in”?
Personally, ever since I moved down to LA and started going to Grace Community Church, I’ve been asking myself some of these questions but have failed to really go looking for any substantial answers from God’s Word. So here I go, and if you want, you can follow along. This will be in many small parts, but hopefully after not too long some firm answers will be found so that when I go to church, I will be able to be more purposeful in what I do and more prepared, knowing what God desires from His Church and from me.
First off, what is the church? What is a basic definition that we can work off of? If you look up the word in a dictionary, it says something about a building and that it can refer to the whole body of believers if it is capitalized.
But what does the Bible say? In Colossians 1:18 along with verse 24 it states that the church is the body of Christ. And who is the body of Christ? “Now you are Christ’s body, and each of you is a member of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). Who? “…those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called to be saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2).
So the church is the body of Christ, but what does that mean? It means, that we who are believers are Christ’s, we belong to His body. It is not that we are literally His body, but rather the words express a part of the greater reality. We are Christ’s body, and that is important – for it tells us who the Church belongs to – we are Christ’s. Not just any body, but Christ’s body. The focus is not on our independence, or even our dependence on each other, but on our dependence on Christ. Apart from Christ there is no Church, we are “members of Christ” (1 Corinthians 6:15), we are members of the body of Christ. Christ exists without us, but we gain our life from Him. These truths are confirmed in Scripture as we read that God has given Jesus, “to the church as head over all things” (Ephesians 1:22). Christ is the head and is the One from whom “the whole body, supported and knit together through its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God” (Colossians 2:19). The Church is not equal to Christ, Christ rules over it, and yet there is a beautiful unity. Christ is the source of the life that is given to the body, and therefore, Christ and the body are one.
The outcome of this is that the Church must always look to Christ for its orders, for the head gives the orders. If something does not receive its instructions from the head, it is not considered a functioning part of the body. So it is with the Church.
So what does this all mean? When I walk into church on Sunday, what should I be thinking? What should I be doing? First of all, I must understand that the church is Christ’s and not mine, therefore, when I am tempted to criticize or complain I must shut my mouth and first consider if Jesus shares my complaint or if I am acting as though I own the church.
Second, I must do what the Head has commanded, and not give myself orders or order other people to do things that are not in-line with Christ.
Third, I must thank the Lord of the Church for the life He has given, and remember that my strength, my health, and my gifts are not my own.
So there it is, a bit of a slow start, but a start anyway. I believe I will continue later to learn more about our gifts as members of the body of Christ and consider what we as believers are to be a part of in the overall design of the Church. May He teach and guide, and bring us closer to Him, for our joy and for His glory.
(I picked up “The Nature of The Church” by Earl D. Radmacher today at the library and it has helped me tremendously in thinking through these questions).