Newsflash: Church is Important!
Oh, you knew that already? Makes sense. Anyone serious about following Jesus and living for him quickly reaches that conclusion.
Church is important to us because it’s important to Jesus. In fact, we know that Jesus is building His church right now!1
Because church is important, we need to understand what it is and how it functions. What does it mean to be the church? And what does the church do?
Much ink has been spilled over the centuries trying to answer these questions. And sadly, much blood has been spilled trying to enforce the answers.
It’s a dangerous thing, trying to define church. Maybe that’s why the Bible doesn’t do it, choosing instead to describe church through a rich assortment of imagery.
The church is described as the bride of Christ. But it’s also the body of Christ. And by the way, it’s the household of God. But also the flock of God. And remember, it’s also the pillar and support of truth.2
All these descriptions are worth reflecting on. They help us understand what church is, what it means to belong to the church, and how the church is meant to operate in the world.
In contrast, many people try to define church by a specific set of activities or by insisting on a particular model. If the favored activities are missing, or the model looks different, it can’t be church. This causes people to confuse events, buildings, and man-made organizations with church.
A Different Perspective
To help us understand church, I want to approach things from a different angle. First, I want to focus on visible health. What markers will be clear and present in a church that is healthy?
Second, I want to highlight broad markers rather than specific practices. There are many ways to skin a cat. The question is, do we see a cat without hair walking around? (You’re right, awkward analogy.)
Here are four things you will see happening in a healthy church:
Members will have an abiding focus on Jesus and an emphasis on seeking and obeying him. Spend any amount of time around these believers and they’ll be talking about Jesus and how to follow him better.
Members will constantly be serving each other in practical ways and building each other up in spiritual ways. They will see themselves first and foremost as family, and they will live accordingly.
Members will be working together to spread the message of Jesus and to make disciples so that the family grows. They know the Lord wants a full house.3 They will see themselves as each being part of the family business.4
Members will be gathering often, in a variety of public and private places. They will gather as a whole and as parts of the whole. They will gather in formal, semi-formal, and informal ways. In short, they will share all of life, together.
If you see a group where these things are visible, let me suggest two things. First, what you’re seeing is a church. Second, that church is healthy.
Consider and Comment
Here are some takeaways I’d like you to consider.
Church is important to us because it’s important to Jesus.
The best way to understand church is to reflect on how the Bible describes it, rather than how men define it.
The 4 markers of a healthy church are constant focus on Jesus, living as family, working together in the family business, and radically sharing life.
What do you think of these markers? Do they describe your church? Which ones are strong? Which are weak? Are there other markers you believe are essential to a healthy church?
- Matthew 16.18
- Ephesians 5.23-30; 1 Corinthians 12.12-28; 1 Timothy 3.15; Acts 20.28
- Luke 14.23. Numbers aren’t everything. They’re also not nothing.
- John 15.16, “You did not choose me but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should last.” It is significant that the "you" here is plural, meaning we have a shared work that can only be accomplished together.