"What the Church Means to Me"
I am told the fastest growing "religious" movement in America today is "None." More people state they have no religious affiliation. It is not that these people do not believe in God or Jesus, but that they don't want to be a part of a local church. Solo Christians. Let me share what the church means to me.
What The Church Means To Me
A. We are very good at building walls. Some say that “fences make good neighbors.” Have you ever wondered why? We build walls for the purpose of protecting ourselves and to keep others away. A wall’s purpose is to divide.
B. Paul writes to the church in Ephesus from a jail in Rome. Do you remember what the cause was that took him to Rome? After bringing a financial gift to the Christians in Jerusalem, Paul went through a purification rite. He was accused of bringing a Gentile into the temple. You see, at the temple was a wall that divided the main portion of the Temple away from anyone who was not a Jew. There was a Gentile court where they could worship from a far, but no closer. That wall divided Jews from Gentiles, even Gentiles who wanted to worship but not be Jews.
D. I remember in 1987 hearing President Reagan say, “Mr. Gorbechev, tear down this wall!” When that wall came down Germany united in just three years. READ Eph. 2:13-14.
E. As I prepared for this sermon, I asked myself, “Do I gain from being a part of a local church?”
I. The Church “Problem”
A. Here was a question posted online in a discussion group, “How do you raise a Christian without going to church? My wife and I are Christian and we have a 10 month old daughter. I want her to have Christian beliefs and thoughts but I hate organized religion. I pray on my own. I thank GOD when good things happen and I pray over difficult things. I got my background from church obviously but I hate going and always have. I have always seen going to church as a waste of my day. I don’t need to sing and all that stuff to believe in Jesus. So my question is can I give my child a good Christian background from home?”
B. Do you think the person who posted this question is the only person who wonders? The church today has a public relations problem. When a person marks on a survey, “What is your religious affiliation” the fasting growing group is “NONE.” None.
C. Not that the person is an unbeliever, but that person doesn’t like or want “organized religion.” They want to be a solo Christian. But let me tell you one more fact, that’s a first world problem. In developing countries people want spiritual community. They want to identify with others, but in first world countries we don’t see the need for community. And sometimes build walls.
D. Paul would write in verse 17, “He came and preached peace to you who are a far off and peace to those who were near.” What Jesus did at the cross was tear down the wall that separated Jew from Gentile and mankind from God. Jesus, in his body, united us so that we are no longer strangers to one another, but members of the household of God.
II. The Church Means Community
A. I want to tell you what I believe is right with the church. This sermon is not about teaching you anything new, but helping you to focus on why community is important.
B. The first thing the church does by it very existence is bring people together and one. A little later in this letter, Paul would write that we should be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Then he would list seven one. That list starts with “one body.” The two most common analogies for the church are the body and the family.
C. We are created with a need for community. Facebook, twitter, Instagram, snapchat, and other social media are about community. We may think it is weird, strange, evil, for young people, or fake but the truth is social media is about community. No one joins Facebook and never has any friends. No one tweets unless they hope someone listens.
D. Find me any place in the New Testament that teaches a person to leave the community of the church and practice their Christianity alone. You will find NONE. The reason Jesus established his church is to bring people together.
E. The church is my family. Before Paul was probably executed, he wrote what we call 2 Timothy. (2 Tim. 4:9-11). Do you hear Paul’s sadness at being alone? Even strong Christians need the company of other Christians. This church is not perfect, but I thank each of you for loving me.
III. The Church Means Accountability
A. The second aspect I gain from this church is people who will challenge me to grow. (Eph. 4:15-16). We are to grow up together as each of us does our part. Part of what I need is to be held accountable for my actions and attitudes. If I have a bad attitude don’t run from me, come to me. Help me to see that the words, looks, grunts, or other ways I show my bad attitude hurts the body. Since the church is the collective, I need to show love, support and help to collective.
B. If my actions are sinful, I don’t hurt just myself. I hurt the church and give opportunity for the world to slander the name of Jesus. Churches, like families, have to discipline. I am not perfect, and I need loving people who can challenge me to grow and not let me live in sinful behavior. What a risk a person takes to come to me and challenge some action or attitude I have.
IV. The Church Means Reconciliation
A. The last point I want to make is that the church is about reconciliation. That is simply an old word that means forgiving with the desire to unite. I can forgive a person and never want to be united with them. Their sin separated our relationship. But God is very different and so is his church.
B. There was a person in Corinth whose sin was so public and so sickening that Paul said they need to expel that sinful brother. While we don’t know if it is the same person, we read Paul talking about a repentant brother. (2 Cor. 2:5-8).
C. The church is not just a community, it is a community of people who grow stronger by sharing burdens, praising and helping, holding each other accountable, but also a place that loves you no matter what your past may have been. Yes, there are consequences to some sin that we live with in this life, but the church seeks to find value in every person who repents. What happens if the church doesn’t offer love? That sinner who repents can be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow and feel alone.
D. Jesus ate with tax-collectors and prostitutes. Jesus reached out and touched a leper who probably had not been touched in years. Jesus affirmed a sinful woman. Jesus offered peace to people who beat themselves up. The church is Jesus.
A. The church is not a building. It is not a denomination. It is a list of doctrines. The church is not a place that builds walls to keep people out. The church is Jesus; therefore we are the church which belongs to Christ.
B. Jesus said that there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than 99 righteous people that need no repentance. The church is about reconciling man back to God.
C. For too long the church has had a reputation that caused people to want to be a Christian, but not “go to church.” The church is everything to me. You are my family, my rock, my guide, my shepherd, the one who love me in spite of me and who forgive me when I repent. I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to live a life separated from all that. Thank you for being the church.
D. We are family and if this family can walk with you in some way that we don’t know, please come and share your need with us as we stand and sing.