Friday, May 24 2024 - 12:22 PM
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Who Needs Church?

Church is a really slippery topic. In the minds of some people, the word conjures up visions of the Crusaders, Catholic Europeans who called themselves Christians, ransacking the city of Constantinople which was the center of Greek Orthodox Christians. These same Crusaders went on to ravage many cities throughout Palestine as they tried to restore the land to Christian control.

For other people, the word church reminds us of the work of the Booths who set up the Salvation Army, or the work of Mother Teresa in India, or the work of Fernando Stahl whose mission work brought education and political opportunity to the Indians in the Peruvian Andes.

Because the church is a gathering of people, it has all kinds of human baggage, good and bad.

My Vision of Church

Let me describe for you my vision of church which comes from the Bible and is also shaped by my own (happy) experience in the church. The church is a group that God has called together to make Him more understandable and believable. The Bible compares the church to the body of Christ. When I assist a toddler in the hospital, my hands are God’s hands. When I call to offer comfort to a friend whose mother has died, God is present in my words. And when someone at church helps me find answers to troubling theological and philosophical questions, they are acting in the place of Christ to build my faith.

One of the very special ways the church connects people with God is through baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In these ceremonies, the church declares that the kingdom of God is available to everyone, regardless of their social or intellectual standing.

Baptism and the Lord’s Supper

In baptism, we are symbolically buried and brought back to life. This points to the conviction repeated all through the NT that when Jesus died and rose again, in some sense He was dying for all of us. Because He died we are released from the fatal consequences of our evil deeds and invited to live a new life.

In the Lord’s Supper, we are invited to come as a family to the Lord’s table and share together with each other and with Him. The Bible knows nothing of “Lone Ranger” Christianity. Believers are called into a family.

“It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living. . .The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence” Ephesians 1:11,12, 23 (The Message).

A Healthy Body of Christ

There are all kinds of churches in the world and none are perfect. Here are some of the marks of a healthy church.

1. Affirmation of Jesus as the wisest teacher and as the sole Savior of the world.

2. Confidence in the mercy and kindness of God. (We don’t earn our way with God; it is a gift.)

3. Affirmation of the importance of obedience to holy law which is summarized in the two great commandments:

  • Love God with your entire being.
  • Love your neighbor as yourself.

The specifics are spelled out in the Ten Commandments.

4. Respect for and attention to the Bible. A worldview that is based on the Bible.

5. Respect and love among the people of the church.

I am a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and can personally recommend it to you. Please come and visit us sometime!

If you liked this, you may also like Why Go to Church? | Why Church is Vitally Important for Every Christian 

John McClarty writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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About John McLarty

John McLarty

writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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