Church is not a place you go on Sunday. It is not a building with a killer worship band and crazy fun kids rooms. Church is not pews or chairs aimed towards a stage where a preacher teaches from GOD’S Word. Church is the Body of Christ. Church is the nation of disciples called by HIS Name. Christians are the Church. The Church has had a tainted image in the view of a growing number of people in our nation though.
“I like your Christ, but I don’t like your Christians.”
“I believe in God, but I don’t like organized religion.”
“The church is too hypocritical, so I just live my faith on my own.”
Those may not be precise quotes, but I have heard lines like that many times. Whether or not people believe in JESUS as their LORD and SAVIOR, an increasing number of them are against the idea of an established church, or disregard its importance at the very least. For some it is a season of rebellion from what they grew up within, whereas others have been deeply hurt and cannot bring themselves to find forgiveness. Still other people just choose to not believe in GOD for any number of reason.
We are living in an increasingly “post-Christian” country that is becoming less Bible-minded every year. Barna Group has put out an ongoing study called Barna:Cities in which they have rated the most post-Christian, most & least Bible-minded, and the most unchurched cities in America. Looking at Pittsburgh alone, I was surprised at the sudden jump in 2015 alone from 40% post-Christian at the beginning of the year to 50% post-Christian today. Earlier this year, Barna Group noted that 38% of Pittsburgh is unchurched, defined as having “not attended a church service, except for a holiday or special occasion, at any time within the past six months.” You can check out Five Trends Among The Unchurched for more insight into what some causes of this increasing issue might be.
I think some of the reason the unchurched and post-Christian numbers are rising is because of the bad PR The Church has because of the loudest few on social media. There are some who would rather spend more time attacking Planned Parenthood and protesting its government funding than reaching out to and caring for the women who feel like abortion is the only way to “fix their problem.” Some want to put all of their effort into opposing the Supreme Court decision for same-sex marriage and choose to avoid the LGBT+ community at all costs rather than being a light to them and sharing the Truth in love with them. Much of the PR surrounding The Church has been focused on Christians are against rather than who we are for. We are known more for our moral crusades than for the ONE who called us out of bondage to sin into HIS glorious light.
It is important to take a stand sometimes. Jesus took a stand in the temple, turning over tables and diving people out because they turned HIS FATHER’S house into a den of thieves. None of HIS ministry took aim at the government though. HE did not come to condemn sinners and overthrow the Romans. HE came to save the world (John 12:47, 3:17). HE did not go around telling people that they were going to burn in hell, but called them to follow HIM.
We should be sharing our testimonies more than our convictions about the sins of the world. We are engaged in a battle, “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms,” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV). We can and will overcome by the blood of the LAMB, and the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11). JESUS CHRIST is the SAVIOR. We won’t change or save the world because of our own agenda. It is the Blood of the LAMB first and foremost, but we also have a part to play. It is our testimony that plants the seed of CHRIST in the hearts of those ready to follow HIM.
But what does all of this have to do with the importance of The Church? Our enemy’s greatest weapon is division and disunity. JESUS refuted the pharisees who said HE was possessed when casting out demons by saying “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand,” (Mark 3:25 NIV). Satan has been trying to use that tactic against The Church ever since.
Paul described The Church as the Body of CHRIST. When someone leaves The Church for whatever reason, it is like wrapping a tourniquet around a limb so tight that it cuts off all circulation to that limb. Eventually the limb grows numb and if it is kept separated for too long, it dies off. If we cut ourselves off from the Body of CHRIST, we begin to cut the circulation of the Blood of the LAMB through us. How effective can we be for The Kingdom if we have become numb, separated from the rest of the Body? How can we expect to bring people to CHRIST if we have removed ourselves from HIS Body?
If you want to make an impact for The Kingdom, if you want to be effective in ministry, if you want to experience the power of the HOLY SPIRIT in your life, you need to be a part of The Church. If you want to your friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors to be saved, then they need to put all of their faith, hope and trust in JESUS, becoming a part of The Church as well. They might not want to go to church with you, and that’s OK. Going to church doesn’t save anyone. You don’t have to get them to come to church on Sunday, but you should be The Church to them while the HOLY SPIRIT draws them to JESUS CHRIST.
My friend, Kent Chevalier, ends services at his church in almost the same way every week. Now that I have the opportunity to send people out after corporate worship on a regular basis, I have borrowed and tweaked that truth to close services at my church as well.
You didn’t come to church today. You are The Church. So go now with love and power, and be The Church where you live and work…
I’ll be sharing more very soon on how we can be The Church outside of the buildings where we meet on the weekends. Until then, reflect the Truth in love and glorious light of JESUS into every dark place you encounter. #BeTheChurch