Why is church important? However long we have been a Christian at some stage we all seem to face that question. Being part of a church is not always easy, and not always what it should be. The traditions and style of church services are varied and diverse and hat alone can be controversial and divisive. But at its best what is church all about?
Why is church important to Christians?
The word ‘church’ only appears three times in the gospels. On all three occasions, it is Jesus who is speaking. Firstly, of building His church, and then secondly, He advises regarding church discipline. These conversations indicate that Jesus initiated ‘church’ and gave clear instructions for the conduct of its members.
The Greek word used for church is ‘ekklesia’ meaning ‘that which is called out’. There is an expectation then that Jesus’ disciples, those called out and chosen to follow Him, would gather together. Jesus taught that when we meet together in His name, He is present with us.
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20
If the concept of the church is founded by Jesus then it is important for us today. In the assembly of Christians, the congregation, there is the assurance of Jesus’ presence. There is 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. Again, there is the expectation that in the future they would meet and share a meal together.
Taking ‘communion’ together now 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. We are united in Jesus’ death and resurrection.
In the book of Acts, immediately after Jesus’ death, we see the natural response of the disciples 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 establish 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 finance, 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
1 Corinthians 12 Meaning
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.” 1 Corinthians 12:27-31
The apostle Paul writes to the Corinthian church because he had received troubling reports about division and immorality in the church. The church was gifted but immature in its conduct and behavior. The meaning of 1 Corinthians 12 fits into this context and purpose. Paul provides an illustration of the human body to further explain how the Christian church is to function.
One body many parts illustration
In 1 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul uses the illustration of the church being one body with many parts. He reminds them that all spiritual gifts are given for the common good – to encourage, build up, and bless the church.
Why the church is important hinges on diversity and unity. Within the church, there should be no partiality, everyone is welcome and valued. People have different gifts and there is a place and a part for each one within the church. Those gifts which are less obvious, should not be less valued. And the gifts that are clearly visible should not be given greater honor.
The parts of the body are mutually dependent on each other for the body to function fully – and so it should be within the church.
Why is unity important in the church?
The unity of the church and the possibility of there being one body united in Christ Jesus, speaks into the spiritual realm of the infinite wisdom of God.
The Corinthian church focused on the vocal and visible gifts and placed a higher value on them. Paul corrected their thinking with this illustration of one body with many parts. He concludes the passage of Scripture with ‘now eagerly desire the greater gifts.’
The greatest gift is love, without love everything else is meaningless. To love God and love our neighbor is a consistent message throughout Scripture. The word to the church to function in the love of God was nothing new.
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.” Psalm 133:1-3
The harmony of God’s people living together in unity sanctifies His people, setting them apart. This sanctification brings a blessing of fruitfulness!
Why is it important to go to church?
Although Scripture does not specifically command Christians to go to church there is encouragement to be part of a community. The church is the place for corporate worship. It is also where Christians can express their love and support for each other.
The church is the place of discipleship, and ministry, where the gifts of the Holy Spirit are exercised. It is also designed to be the centre of the mission to share the gospel, to reach out to the local community, and even further afield.
There are many people who are Christians who for various reasons do not attend church. And that is sad, there is no perfect church because it is made up of imperfect people just like us. There are times when we will all struggle with church and that is often more about God shaping and refining us, than changing other people…
Why is it 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. It seemed to go on for the longest time ever…I don’t remember who spoke, or what happened during the meeting.
What I do remember is when the talking and singing were over, tea and biscuits were handed around. The lady who was serving 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. Of course, I wanted the chocolate one!
I remember feeling favored, that she had been so kind to offer me what was so obviously the best choice. It is strange how certain memories stay with you. I learned a lesson that day about simple acts of service. Showing love, kindness, and preferring someone else can make an impact that lasts.
Sometimes we can be like that plate of mixed biscuits. We all want to be the favorite one – the one who stands out. Or actually, we don’t want to be on 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 the community?
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 to the community 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 a part of the body, that we learn to function in the unity of the Holy Spirit. It is there, often among the tea and biscuit moments, that we mature and grow. As we learn to be patient with each other and to love one another. To 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