By Pastor Tom Davidson
Today I want to ask this question: Does church really matter? It’s not about attending church. It’s about church. The question isn’t whether church attendance matters, but whether church matters. The question has nothing to do with the Sunday morning event, but with the living, breathing body we are. Haven’t you ever asked whether church matters sometime in the past? Some of you may have even asked it this morning as you were crawling out of bed. What difference does church really make? More often than we care to admit, even at some subconscious level, we treat church as though it’s optional. “I can do better on my own.” “I don’t need to be part of a church to live for God.” Does church really matter to us? Could you get along without church? Hundreds of thousands of believers today are living outside church. Does it work? Should it work? Do we need to keep doing this every week? Does church really matter?
Thankfully the Bible answers those questions for us. We’re not left to wonder or wander around in darkness. God does have a message for us today, and it simply is that church matters. We’re here today because the church has meant something to each of us, or maybe because we’re trying to learn more about why the church is important. And many of us can tell stories about why the church matters to us. But as much as the church is about impacting and transforming the lives of individuals, it’s also about impacting and transforming the world. And here’s why: Christ isn’t here anymore. That is, Christ isn’t physically present on this earth today as he was 2,000 years ago. This means that if people today are going to experience Christ, it’s going to have to happen in a different way. And Christ knew that.
So after His resurrection, Christ went to the disciples and He commissioned them, which is a really fancy way of saying that He told the disciples to go out and, in His name, do what He had been doing for the last three years of His ministry. He sent them out into the world as witnesses to do ministry in His name; to heal in His name, to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins, and to share the good news of salvation in Christ Jesus and God’s coming kingdom. Then He left them and ascended into heaven. That was the beginning of the church, and it’s also the key to why the church matters. What would’ve happened if Christ had ascended without commissioning the disciples; or if those first commissioned disciples had decided they were through with this Jesus-business and they were going to go back to home and get their lives back to normal? That would’ve been the end. Christ would have lived, taught, healed, died and been resurrected, and within a few generations He would have been forgotten; the healing would’ve stopped, the resurrection promise would’ve been lost, the hope would have faded away. Christ’s love and salvation never would have been known beyond those people who encountered him during His years on earth.
But, fortunately for us, for billions of others, and for this whole world, it didn’t happen that way. The disciples got busy and they kept Jesus’ ministry going; they kept His message alive sharing the good news “to the ends of the earth.” And the church today can do no less. If we in the church do not continue Christ’s ministry, no one will. That’s why the church matters! Christ made a difference in people’s lives. He healed the sick. He helped the poor. He forgave sinners. He shared God’s grace and love. And He died on the cross so that we might have eternal life with our loving God. We’re talking about the difference between life and death here, and it’s the church’s task to get that message out into the world! Christ can transform people’s lives if only we will show people who Christ is and what He is about.
That’s why the church matters! Our world hurts today. You walk through schools and you hear kids bullying each other. You turn on the news and everything is negative: murders, economic hardships, rising unemployment. You read in the papers about starving people in Africa, and the US, and endless fighting in the Middle East. Marriages and relationships are falling apart and work stresses us out. Everyday people lose their lives to cancer and AIDS and a host of other illnesses and diseases that we can’t yet prevent or cure. All around us is bleakness, despair, death. But through the church, God in Christ Jesus is able to offer something else to the world. Christ brings hope in the midst of all the hurt because Christ feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, heals the sick, and forgives the sinner. God in Christ Jesus offers justice, peace, and rich blessings. And above all Christ gives unconditional love and abundant life. Only in Christ can we find the strength to make it through all the difficulties of this life. Only in Christ can we find the joy of this life and the hope of the life to come. The best way to encounter Christ today is through the witness of the church in the world. We are his light! We are His body ministering to this world in the same way Christ Himself did so many years ago. The Church isn’t simply about a particular way of being religious; there’s lots of ways to be “religious” in the world today. The church isn’t even about a particular system for how to be saved here or hereafter. The church isn’t simply a different way of holiness. The Christian Church is about Jesus Christ! The church matters because the church makes it possible for people to have real encounters with Christ.
The church is a group of people with nothing in common except Jesus Christ.