Have you ever thought about why you go to church? It’s not just for the coffee and donuts, though some churches offer really good coffee these days!
We’ve discussed on this blog that Christian calling involves a call to grow in our walk with Christ and that primary call is lived out in four key secondary callings—the family, church, vocation, and community. Today, I’d like to discuss our calling to the church.
God’s church serves many purposes, including worship, teaching, service, and care. At its heart, the church is a life-source of community and truth for believers, where we share life and pursue a relationship with God together. The primary role of the church is to build up believers for the work of ministry, which is all that we do, including making disciples of all nations.
The church is also a marketplace of exchange for our God-given gifts. Basil, an early church father, wrote that “when we live our lives in isolation, what we have is unavailable and what we lack is unprocurable.”
In other words, when we are not part of a community, we deprive each other of our gifts. Through the church, we serve and encourage fellow believers. Hebrews 10:24 calls us to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. To do that we must be in a community—particularly a well-functioning church.
The following points outline the importance of our calling to church.
1. The church is the body of Christ.
Jesus repeatedly uses the metaphor of a body with many parts to explain the church (Eph. 4; I Cor. 12:12; Rom. 12:4–5). Jesus Christ reigns as the head and the church functions as the body. As believers in Jesus, we are members of the body, each with unique gifts and functions.
When we refer to the church, we are talking about both the visible church building where believers go to worship on Sundays and the invisible, universal community of believers in Jesus Christ united in faith even if they are not part of the same congregation. All believers are part of the universal church, or body, of Christ and should also invest in a local congregation.
The visible church is a place where we can both be filled and serve others. The church should be a place of biblical teaching that feeds both the mind and the soul (Acts 2:42) and a place to worship in spirit and in truth. The church is also a place for fellowship and sharing in our common faith, both on Sundays and during the week. Finally, the church is a central place to serve people in need in the congregation, in the community at large, in the city, state, nation, and world through our financial resources and tangible action.
It’s important to remember that even in imperfect churches, we benefit in many ways. All churches are imperfect because they are made up of sinners. However, many churches, although imperfect, are places where we can truly grow.
2. The church is the bride of Christ.
Marriage is used throughout scripture as a metaphor for the gospel and an example of Christ’s relationship to the church. Christ uses the illustration of a bride and bridegroom in the New Testament to explain the coming of the kingdom of God (Mark 2:18–19; Matt. 25:1–12).
The same illustration appears in Revelation in the final Restoration when the body of Christ, the church, is united with God forever (Rev. 21; 19:6–10). Marriage begins in Genesis with Adam and Eve. Just as the first Adam had a bride to serve with him (Gen. 2:18–25), so the second Adam (Jesus) has chosen a bride to serve with him: the church (Eph. 5:29–32).
Together with his bride, Jesus is fulfilling the original mandate by filling the earth with regenerated images of God (Christians), who in turn submit to God’s rule and subdue the earth for his glory.
3. The church is the priesthood of all believers (I Pet. 2:9–10).
Because of what Christ did on the cross, we now have intimacy with him that many in the Old Testament lacked. Our job is to proclaim his glory in a dark world. We have dignity, worth, and status that is associated with our calling as priests.
As believers in Christ and members of his church, we each have a responsibility and calling to proclaim God’s glory, share the gospel with others, serve, and pray, even without an official pastoral title.
Think about this for a moment. As a believer in Jesus, you have a special role on this earth to be an ambassador for him. The church is not only a place to worship or a global association of people. It is a conduit to proclaim the glory of God in everything that we do.
4. We have gifts that are powered by the Holy Spirit.
We all have spiritual gifts that we can contribute to each other. (Eph. 4:11–12, Rom. 12:3–8, I Cor. 12:7–11 and 27–31, and I Peter 4:10–11 list a variety of gifts.)
In the 1 Peter passage, note that every person has a gift or gifts. No believer lacks a gift. We are called to use these gifts (God’s gifts) to serve one another—inside and outside the church—as good stewards and to glorify God.
The church is not just for our personal well-being. Your gifts, powered by the Holy Spirit, can be used to God’s glory in any setting.
So, in our spiritual journey and pursuit of Christ, membership and participation in the church is not just a suggestion. Scripture is clear that the community and role of the church are vital to our spiritual growth.
We were never meant to live in isolation and can only flourish in a community of believers.