Whether you are a new Christian or have been a Christian for a long time, I think we will all at some stage question why is church important? Church is not always easy, and not always what it should be, but at it’s best it is the place for us to grow together in faith and knowledge of the Lord Jesus.
Why is Church important?
Even before Jesus’ death, He spoke to the ‘church.’ He gave instructions for the conduct of those who would believe in Him, and a reminder that when we gather in His name, He is present with us. I know that Jesus is with us as individuals, we have that assurance of His presence, but there is a power in our togetherness, in collective prayer and praise.
At Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, he instructed them to ‘remember Him’ when they met together. The assumption was that in future they would meet and share a meal together. Taking ‘communion’ together is a collective remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice, through the symbolism of the bread and wine. The breaking and sharing of the bread, also indicates that we are now one body united in His death and resurrection.
In the book of Acts, immediately after Jesus’ death, we see the natural response of the disciples and followers of Jesus was to come together to pray. They turned to each other for mutual support and encouragement, and this set the pattern for the ‘early church.’
New Christians would form a group to help and support each other, to learn from each other. They were willing to share their ‘gifts’ with one another. Whether the gift was wealth, possessions, talent, or spiritual – the view was that they were given by God for the common good.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.Hebrews 10:23-25
Why is Church Important to Me?
One of my earliest memories of church is pre-school. It was afternoon and I was in a small upstairs room at ‘The Sisterhood’ meeting with my Mum. She was playing the piano and I was sitting on the front row on a hard wooden chair for the longest time ever…Maybe I dozed because I don’t remember if Mum came back to sit next to me, or who spoke, or what else happened during the meeting.
It was when the talking and singing were over, and the tea and biscuits were going round, that I came to life again. The lady who was offering the biscuits made her way to me, “Would I like a biscuit, did I want the chocolate one?” Well, this was a plate of mixed biscuits, but in the middle of the plate there was one big chocolate biscuit – and of course I wanted the chocolate one!
I remember feeling favoured, special, that she had been so kind to offer to me, the smallest, most insignificant person there, what was so obviously the best choice. It is strange how certain memories stay with you. By that simple act, I learnt a lesson that day about ‘church.’ A simple act of service of showing love, kindness, and preferring someone else, makes an impact which lasts.
Some of the problems with church quite simply are that sometimes we can be like that plate of mixed biscuits, maybe we all want to be the favourite one, the one who stands out. Or actually we don’t want to be in a plate of mixed biscuits at all, we want everyone else to be a custard cream, or a pink wafer, just like us….
“The church we want becomes the enemy of the church we have.” ‘Practice Resurrection’ by Eugene PetersonTweet
Why is Church Important to You?
Church works when we are willing to show love and kindness to one another. When, as Eugene Peterson puts it, we are willing to ‘practise resurrection’. At times we may have to die to self, to put our own wants aside and to consider more the needs of others. That is a hard lesson to learn. It seems, to me, that when we think we’ve grasped it, the Lord brings us back to that point again – with another difficult situation, or an ‘unreasonable person.’ Or could it be that this time, I’m being the unreasonable one?
If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care – then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.Philippians 2:1-5 MSG
The reason that church is so important is because it is the body of Christ, made up of many diverse parts. The church represents Christ to a lost world – and the unity of the members of the body speaks powerfully into the spiritual realm.
Related post: The Mystery of the Gospel
It is only there as part of the body that we learn to function in the unity of the Holy Spirit, and it is there, often among the tea and biscuit moments, that we mature and grow. As we learn to be patient with each other, to love one another, and be willing to strive to keep the peace that Christ has won for us by reconciling us to God.
….speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does it work.Ephesians 4:15-16