Do I need the Church, or does it need me?
By Erik Retallick
As a musician I have some quite amazing sound systems I can use to listen to music at home. They are all great, enjoyable and nice to listen to while I am working. However, when it comes to basics, there is nothing like listening to real, live music, in a concert venue, local hall or even in Church, where I am giving my full attention to the performers and the shared experience.
In a similar way, there is no substitute for going to Church if we are physically and mentally able to cope with the experience. For the elderly, like my mother, who is 89 and hard of hearing, it can be very difficult to understand what is being said and what is going on, but she frequently says, “I don’t know how much longer I will be able to do this for, so I attend Church as regularly as I am able to do so. She always comes back blessed, uplifted, having met someone she hasn’t met before and enjoyed the company of other Christians who have become good friends, pray for her and keep an eye on her by praying for and visiting her when they can, as she gets older.
I don’t want to be legalistic in any way, especially as the central theme of what we preach is the Gospel of God’s Grace, where our performance as Christians is totally irrelevant and our salvation is entirely dependent on God’s love for us in sending Jesus to be our Saviour, dying a cruel death as a sacrifice pleasing to God to take away the sins of all who put their faith and trust in Him.
Nevertheless, I believe very firmly and strongly that as believers and followers of Jesus, we are kept on track and in our place as members of the body of Christ by meeting together regularly as brothers and sisters in Christ. I have heard some cynical Christians say things like “Churches, who needs them?” and “I am seriously thinking of leaving out attending Church regularly and just worshipping God as I enjoy my quiet time alone with Him and appreciate looking at His creation all around me.”
I have a very high view of the Church, because it has always been a great blessing to me to attend regularly, play an important part in the message and ministry of the local body of Christ, in helping those in need I meet there and participate in the prayer, preaching, music, mentoring, and counselling ministry. I have also gained great strength and encouragement from my brothers and sisters, as we gather together in the Name of Jesus, knowing that He is present, gathering with us to bless us by His Grace..However, there is a much more important aspect than this, which is what God has to say about in the Bible.
In the Old Testament we see several examples of corporate worship where God’s glory is revealed in a spectacular way. Exodus 40:34-38, where the tabernacle is completed, and 2 Chronicles 7:1-10, where the first temple, a place to worship God, is built by Solomon and dedicated to the Lord. These are two very important events we read about, and others had personal encounters with God, such as Isaiah (Isaiah 6) and Samuel, (1 Samuel 3).
Closer to our time in History and perhaps more significant, is the example of Jesus in relation to worship with others on a regular basis. In Luke 4:44 we read that “He was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.” What is even more amazing is that Jesus regularly attended the synagogues, which were local centers of worship for those who couldn’t travel to the Temple in Jerusalem to worship. What is more, is that He had the opportunity to preach, and teach the people in the synagogues, even if they were offended and upset by what He had to say. Did He agree with all their practices and views? I very much doubt it, when we look at some of the thing He said to the Pharisees.
Perhaps the most strong argument about the importance of meeting together regularly as brothers and sisters in Christ is in Hebrews 10:24-25, where we read, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Yes, we can meet on Skype, Twitter, Facebook, exchange thoughts and encourage one another with an email, but when we meet together as a local expression of the Body of Christ, we can be assured that The Holy Spirit, who indwells all Christians will be making Jesus more real as a presence with us.
That is why we read so much about the glory of God filling the place where God’s people are gathered together, as in Acts 2 where the Holy Spirit was poured out in power and 3,000 people were added to the Church in one day! In 2014 there are at least 10,000 people in China coming to know Jesus as their Saviour every day, and that is only one country!
I believe that God is enthroned on the praises of His people and such is His grace to us that where 2 or 3 are gathered together in His Name, He is there in our midst (Matthew 18:20). If we really want to see change in our world, see broken lives made whole, the blind seeing and the lame leaping for joy, it will be as we gather together as a local expression of the Body of Christ.
It is not what we always want to do, or easy to get on with others who have different opinions from us, and we can always find 101 reasons (or excuses) not to do it, but let me urge you as brothers and sisters in Christ to follow the very earnest plea of the writer of Hebrews to meet regularly, for the sake of our our own spiritual health as Christians, to encourage one another, learn from one another and to experience the Grace and Glory of our Living Lord.