At the beginning of this little series of ramblings we began to explore the phrase, “You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” We’ve been delving into its premise to see if it is reliable because people who claim to be Christians also have a high ethic for living purposeful, truth-integrated lives.
Our habit of abbreviating concepts has led to calling the building Christians meet in as ‘the church’, and the worship services we organize as simply ‘church’. So the proposition that Christians don’t need to ‘go to church’ suggests that we don’t need to worship together — that it’s a dispensable, nonessential optional activity.
But as we’ve begun to discover that the Church is a living thriving organism made up of every Christ-follower on earth, we’re learning that each of us has an essential role in the Church. We are members of a Body where each supporting ligament, every organ and limb, is necessary to the Body. We must love each other, bring spiritual food to each other, help each other dress in garments of virtue, and assist each other in keeping a healthy work-rest rhythm.
The final argument in favour of the Christian’s innate connection to the Church is the call to serve it. It’s hard to serve a Body you never meet with, interact with or identify with.
The Apostle Paul describes it this way: “Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness – the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints…this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:24-27)
Now that is saying a lot. Let’s dissect it a little and see if it reinforces what we’ve been saying about the Church.
The Church is a unit, known since His resurrection as Christ’s Body on earth. There is implied here a connection between those who belong to Christ. The spiritual health of one is dependent upon the spiritual health of all.
The servant-nature of Christ toward the Church involved Him suffering the greatest affliction possible – perfect Man dying for imperfect mankind. As imitators of Christ, we are called to serve one another, which at times will entail an element of suffering.
Serving one another results in embracing the amazing mystery God designed for needy people like us: Christ, the soul of the Body, actually lives within each member.
Service to the Body was not intended to be the sole job of pastors. Pastoring is one role; others are encouraging, teaching, maintaining peace, wrestling in prayer, showing hospitality, practical helps and a host of other roles. There is room for everyone in the Body to serve. In fact, when even one Christian fails to serve, the Body lacks.
The amazing thing is that when it is running as it should, there is nothing on this earth that reminds us more of Christ than His Body of believers, the Church. So the question is not, ‘Why do I need to go to church?’ but rather ‘Where would I rather be than fully integrated in the Body of Christ?’ There is always room for one more.
(Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Biswarup Ganguly)