I was talking to a strong believer who had stopped going to church and I asked him what it was that had changed for him. He thought about it for a while and came up with the things we usually hear: the infighting, the pettiness, the church games, etc., besides, he could worship God anywhere and he didn’t really see the purpose for the church.
I love the body of Christ and consider it a privilege and joy to be a part of our faith family. I thank God for his grace and sovereign power, “You did not choose me, but I chose you…” (John 15:16). So I think it is a great mistake to view the church from the wrong angle. If we look through the lenses of our own experience within the church to get some idea of its value or purpose, then in all probability we’ll end up very disappointed and disillusioned. It’s only by looking at the church through the lens of the New Testament—through the renewing of our minds—that we’ll understand what is really happening in it.
I therefore urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercies, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices that are holy and pleasing to God, for this is the reasonable way for you to worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but continuously be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may be able to determine what God’s will is—what is proper, pleasing, and perfect. – Romans 12:1-2
Consider the illustration of the modern hospital, itself the fruit of the Gospel, a gift to the world through the church. If we wander through the halls of any large downtown hospital, we will see many strange devices, hear all kinds of odd noises, smell peculiar—even repugnant—odors, and observe a great assortment of sick and broken people. If we have no idea what a hospital is or what its ultimate purpose happens to be, we might be tempted to conclude that we want nothing to do with it.
However, when we discover the purpose for the hospital’s existence, we come to appreciate it for what it is and see that it’s definitely something very good, an institution we simply can’t do without. It’s a place people desperately need and without it they are in great jeopardy. Its overall organization, function, and activities are established to save lives and make life better.
This parallels the church. If one wanders in and out of it without any clear understanding of what it is and why it’s there, then we will find some things that we may feel shouldn’t be there. There will be as many sick, broken people there as in any hospital. But just as a hospital saves lives, so a life-giving, godly church can become a doorway into the kingdom of God because there is so much inherent power in the Gospel and in the powerful presence of the risen Christ. The Great Physician is present in our midst.
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, urge you to live in a way that is worthy of the calling to which you have been called, demonstrating all expressions of humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another in love. Do your best to maintain the unity of the Spirit by means of the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit. Likewise, you were called to the one hope of your calling. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, through all, and in all.