Just the word “church” can invoke an emotional response. Perhaps an image of a particular building comes to mind or memories of a certain group of people. Some have hostile feelings toward church and go as far as to blame all social ills on the Christian community.
The church I attend and serve at is a larger congregation. We have over fifty-five nations represented in our regular services. Through our food pantry hundreds of people are served every month. Prayer is an integral part of our worship and the Bible is taught and embraced fully. In saying these things I don’t want to minimize the impact small congregations have. Whenever I visit smaller churches it is clear the vital role they are playing in communities.
I can testify to things happening in the church today. The church as an organization is the largest entity in the world that feeds the poor. On a daily basis volunteers across the country visit others in hospitals and nursing homes. The list of behind the scenes actions of the church include grief counseling, mentoring, prison visits, parenting classes, child care, assisting single parents, and a host of other things. Media has no reason to report the ongoing good things church congregations do because it is commonplace. As people we remember the unusual or disastrous rather than the normal.
With all the good churches do there are still problems. In the past many churches were legalistic in their views and teaching. Legalism doesn’t work so in an attempt to be relevant the church community chose to favor a more “seeker friendly” environment. Unfortunately the pendulum swung too far to the point the church is being ignored into irrelevance. Even worse some church congregations embrace any lifestyle that will fill the empty seats. If Jesus should tarry on his return there will be a future generation that looks back on this time of history with confusion, the same as we do looking at the roles of the Church in past ages.
The Bible makes it clear that the Church exists as the Body of Christ, the habitation of God through the Spirit. Ephesians 1:22-23 God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. 23 And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.
As such the purpose of the Church is to fulfill the great commission of reaching the lost and teaching the found. Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
We will never experience a perfect church this side of eternity because fallible humans are in every congregation. Even so, the Church will continue until Christ receives her as his bride. If you attend a church that preaches and teaches the word of God then you most likely have a place to fulfill your calling as a follower of Christ.
Rev. Burt Schwab