Of the more than 110 times in the New Testament the word ‘church’ is used, never once was it used to refer to a building, institution, denomination or an organisation. There are numbers of metaphor that has been used in the New Testament to describe the church, but never once to literally refer to a building. In fact, a church in the New Testament is referred to as a family, it is where the brothers and sisters of Jesus gather together to worship Jesus. The New Testament church is defined by Jesus himself (in Matt 18:20):
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am.”
The church is called ‘the body’ (1 Corinthians 12:12-31) so to emphasize that it is linked to the head – Jesus. Without the head, it is like a body with a severed head, which is utterly useless. In this same passage, Paul is basically saying that just as the human body has many parts making up the whole body, so it is with the body of Christ. As the body of Christ, we all may have varying gifts and functions within the church, but we are all one and work together as one, and no one is greater or less.
In the book of Ephesians 2:19-22, Paul uses the word ‘building’ as a metaphor to describe the church by referring to us (believers) as the stones and bricks joined together making up the whole structure of the building, and he refers to the chief cornerstone which the building is founded upon as Christ Jesus because only when you come to ‘The Living Stone’ do you become a stone living. Can you imagine a building that has some of the stones and bricks missing? Can you imagine how draughty that building would be?
If I am in Christ, I am essentially a part of the house Jesus is building.
None of us can possibly fulfill our ministry (whatever that may be) without being mutually dependent on others. We cannot fulfill God’s purpose for the church, this cannot happen unless each and every one of us commits to being an active member of the body. It is by being built in the church that we become effective in doing God’s work of serving, witnessing and ministering. God’s plan and purpose can best be accomplished in community, and in relationship with other members of the body of Christ. When everyone is involved, when every hand is on deck, when everyone is actively working and exercising their gifts, we would see the glory of God.
A prominent American football coach recently described the game as an event where about 50 people who are exhausted and tired and in desperate need of rest are playing in the field and are being watched by 50,000 spectators who are resting and in desperate need of exercise. I think that statement says a lot about the state of the church today.
Jesus did not establish His church, just for attendance, or as a spectator sport, or so it might be periodically visited, or so people might go to be entertained, or so they might drop in on their way somewhere else, No! But He established His church so that He may be the focus of our attention; so that He may be the sole object of worship; so that He alone may be the subject of discussion; so that He may be the centre of our devotion; so that He may be the heart and core of our affection.
In the Christian walk, we do not compete against one another, but we compete against the obstacles that face us in life, we compete against the enemies of our spirits. The race that is to be won cannot be won by spectators. Any church can only be healthy when everyone is exercising their God-given gifts. We can have the best organised church, best administer church, all machined of a church, but if the Spirit of the Lord is not guiding each member to use his or her gifts in and outside of the church, then we are nothing but mechanical robots.
Imagine for a moment, what if at a wedding ceremony, the bride decides to sit in the back pew of the church for the duration of the ceremony and would not come all the way down the aisle? Imagine the bride then yells from the back saying, “I came this far but no further, I want to make my vows standing here at the back of the church. Yes, I will marry you, but we will have to live our separate ways.” Won’t that be an absolute farce of a marriage? The sentiment echoed here is exactly how so many Christians treat the church today.
Oliver Cromwell was in charge of the treasury of England during a period of shortage of silver that was used to make the silver coin as part of the currency for the realm of England. Cromwell sent his men to search for silver so it can be used to produce the much needed silver coins in shortage. The men went out and looked everywhere for silver and they couldn’t find any, and so they went back to Cromwell, and they said to him, “Sir! we have looked everywhere for silver, but we cannot find silver. The only silver that we can find is in the statues of the saints in the cathedral.” This gave a rise to a magnificent quote from Cromwell when he said to them:
“Well, let us melt the saints and put them in circulation”
Before God can use anyone, before God can put His servant into use and into circulation, God has to put them through a meltdown. I can tell you truthfully this day that many of us saints have been sitting as statues in a cathedral for too long. God has not been able to use you as much, or make you effective, or get service out of you, simply because you are satisfied to be a statue in a cathedral, instead of being a silver coin in circulation. The reason why God was able to use men like Elijah, the reason why God was able to use women like Esther is because they were willing to step forward out of their comfort zone, they were willing to be used by God, to be melted down for Jesus sake.
There are so many people who are into God and Christianity only for what they can get out of God and Christianity. But David the King was there to serve the Living God and to serve Him alone. That was the motive of his heart, and that was what God saw and that was why He distinguished David from the rest of his brothers. David did not only become a great king of Israel, but he became one of the greatest men in the entire history of the human race. Why? Because God is looking for:
- Availability above ability
- Willing servants, and not reluctant doers
- God-servers, and not self-servers.
There are many people in the Christian church who are long on talent and wistfulness, but short on testimony and willingness. Ability without availability equals inability. In honouring of God, it is not the greatness of our service that matters, it is not the volume of our activities for God that matters, it is not even the magnitude of our involvement in the work of God that really matters, but what really matters is the desire and the willingness to honour God in whatever way He wants us to honour Him.
The main reason why our society is a mess today is because of the church. The reason why with all our mega churches today we are becoming irrelevant to culture and society and not impacting it is because the church has shifted its focus from Christ to meeting our personal needs. It is indeed because the church has shifted from serving Christ to self-serving. The reason why with all of the millions of Christian books, radio and television the church is not making a dent on the moral decay of society is because we are seeking our glory and not His, we are seeking our agenda, not His, we are seeking our plan, not His, we are seeking our program, not His.
A story was told about a dangerous seacoast whereabout the occurrence of shipwreck was so frequent. The village community built a crude little hut with a very simple boat for the sole purpose of using it to serve as a rescue boat for reaching out so as to save lives of those caught up in any shipwreck. All the village population served as volunteers in undertaking the rescue work, but after some time, the villagers decided to hire paid-professional rescue workers, so they could all take much time off to rest. As time passed again, they built a much nicer, and comfortable building to replace the crude hut. The new building became an enjoyable social success for all the villagers to come and hang out, and in doing so, they all forgot about the rescuing work of shipwreck, which they left only to the paid professionals.
One day, a large shipwrecked right in front of them, but only the professionals responded to save as many lives as they could. and in doing so, the beautiful building was damaged, leaving majority of the villagers upset. At the next membership meeting, they voted to suspend their life savings activities altogether (reason being, it was disturbing the social life of the club). A few brave souls dared to speak up and left to start off their own rescuing work. They also started off with a crude hut and boat, with a sole purpose of saving lives from shipwreck, but as time went on, their buildings also got bigger and better, and history repeated itself. This very same similar cycle went on throughout the coast. Until today, one eyewitness said, “If you look at that coast, you see it dotted with beautiful buildings, but shipwreck still happens. And now, people drown instead of being rescued.” This is the very sad history of the church of Jesus Christ.
The Bible refers to the church as “the Bride of Christ,” giving real definition to the fact that the church is only the church if it is madly in love with the bridegroom. All of these is basically telling us that the church and its focus is one person – Jesus Christ. It is time we stop dating the church and commit to being the bride of Jesus Christ. We must begin today by asking the Lord:
“Lord what role will you have me play? What part will you have me connect with?”
There was a time in my life that I was what you will call a butterfly Christian – this refers to someone who would go from one church to the other without any commitment or intention of serving there. I would attend one church service in the morning and a different one in the evening (for one reason or the other). In fact, at one point, I was close to isolating myself completely from having anything to do with the church, but I was reminded of the saying that “No man is an Island,“and in my heart was convinced that if I truly want God to use me, He must have my full attention, and so I decided to wholly commit only to one local Bible-believing church.
Unfortunately, there is no such a thing as a perfect church (at least not on this side of heaven), simply because no one is perfect, and the church is only made of imperfect people. I remember once my church pastor said to me, “If you find the perfect church don’t join in cos you will ruin it.” What a great sense of humour and godly wisdom he has.
To the unbelievers, going to church means nothing, but at least, if you go to a Bible-believing church, you are going to start seeing yourself as a sinner in need of repentance and will be at a place where you can turn to God for His free gift of salvation on offer. To the believer, it is a place where you get instructed and rooted in the Word of God so that you may grow into Christ-likeness.
What a journey walking you God. Indeed we are utterly useless but not worthless to You. Jesus, only you know the value of my Soul, and you ask me to be Your Bride. The Cross shows how impossibly valuable I am to You, to Your Holy Spirit, and to the Father. Here I am Lord, here I am. Please O Lord, replace my wandering heart with a willing heart so I can do Your will. In surrender to You, Lord, I want to be a part of Your Army, cause I am too weak to stand on my own. So please lead me, guide me, hold me, hide me, mold me, and break O God, as I walk this journey with You till the work on earth is done.