"Hooray for Church Life"
by Frederick Drummond
Are churches relevant today? Should you place any value on them at all? For that matter, does the Bible even teach they are necessary?
Perhaps these questions could be best answered by considering their value to first-century believers. To begin with, back then they never considered them something that you attended or visited on occasion, nor were they a complement to society. Churches were communities of believers. Yes, they were countercultures that stood out in stark contrast to their heathen counterparts (2 Cor. 6:14-18). Those believers recognized the importance of church membership; assembling together was the natural outflow of their common faith lived out (Heb. 10:24,25). They saw themselves as a separate nation within the Roman Empire, with spiritual ties that couldn’t be sustained outside of their church relationships.
To them, churches weren’t a crowd of well-intentioned people, nor were they just a gathering of Christians who only saw one another on Sunday and perhaps Wednesday. They were organized, functioning communities that related their whole lives and everything they did to each other. They were love fellowships, spiritual communities. They saw themselves as God’s people bound together by the Holy Spirit with a common cause to serve Christ. They recognized that Jesus started the first church in opposition to Moses’ Law Covenant church, and that being a functioning part of them wasn’t born of man’s arbitrary choice. Churches and church membership were God’s idea. The Scriptures reveal that God Himself called them into existence from eternity, because they were a fundamental part of His latter-day strategy to provide a contrasting testimony that pointed to the Jesus life (Eph. 3:8-11). To the extent that we forget this, churches lose their relevance. There is no way that you can say they are of man. They are of divine origin. They were found wherever believers had chosen to heed the Spirit’s call on their lives and wanted to take their place in faith in the grand purposes of God, and by the way, this is still true today. Church life was so vital to their faith that to be put outside of the fellowship of believers was likened to being handed over to the devil to be plundered (1 Cor. 5:4,5).
Far too many sincere, well-intentioned Christians haven’t grasped their value and come to recognize that without them, the Kingdom of God will be in real trouble. Christians have to recognize that churches are of divine origin. They are living, breathing bodies of believers mystically united to the enthroned Lord Jesus Christ in heaven, with the specific call on them to gather God’s people out of the world into communities of believers (Matt. 28:19,20). Church life is all about heeding divine order in a lawless society that urges every man to do his own thing and attempt to solo life without the divine connections necessary to do so. Your destiny is inseparably linked to the call of God on your church, and few believed otherwise until the twentieth century.
As surely as churches are connected to Christ, so also are they divinely connected to one another by the Holy Spirit to form the most formidable spiritual force on earth: the body of Christ, against which not even the gates of hell can prevail (Matt. 16:18). Together nothing can stop them from going into all the world, and successfully preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom. They are holy, prophetic, authoritative, and the greatest place on earth to experience the glory of God’s presence (Eph. 3:21).
The promised end-time revival so many look for is not going to happen until Christians everywhere get back in church and are built up in their holy faith the way they have for the last two thousand years. There is no other way to practically submit yourself to the Lordship of Christ than in the local church context (1 Cor. 3:9-16). Until this happens, our generation will continue to flounder, and the mandate on all of us believers to reach out and change the world won’t successfully happen. Churches were designed by God to lift His people out of the world so that in the community of Christ they could live safely and find their answers (Eph. 4:11-16). As long as God’s people remain in the world outside of the safety of the church, they will continue to suffer from the world’s problems.
At no time in recent history have more people been as ignorant of the important role the church is supposed to play in their lives than today. Far too many have forgotten that it alone is the holy temple that the Holy Spirit is building up one member at a time where God can meet with them and minister to them (1 Cor. 12:18-27). Certainly every believer is a temple for the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19,20), but the greater temple is the local church (1 Cor. 3:16,17) where believers are likened to building blocks (1 Pet. 2:5) that form a habitation for God in the Spirit (Eph. 2:19-22), and where His anointing is most powerful.
No one can afford to minimize Jesus Christ’s announcement: “I will build My church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). Perhaps today we don’t realize how devastating this was to the Jewish ego, because we are so far removed from it. But may I remind you that it pronounced the end of the Law Covenant church and the commencement of the New Covenant church, with many unique differences: back then there was only one of them, whereas today there would be many. This revelation changed everything for God’s people. God was finished with Moses’ law system, and Christ’s grace system would now take its place (Heb. 8:6-13).
The exclusive right of the Jewish nation to say that they were the people of God was over, and a nation of spiritual Jews was born (Rom. 2:28,29). They would be a people of faith gathered together by the Spirit of God in spiritual communities forming a holy nation (1 Pet. 2:9), one that God dreamed of from the beginning (Col. 1:24-27). So that whereas back then there was only one great assembly of physical Israel, from henceforth under the New Covenant there would be many assemblies of spiritual Israel all over the world. Jesus began a whole new divine order of things, and this is how it’s going to be to the end (Matt. 24:14). If you want to serve God properly, then you are going to have to become part of a Bible-based church. There is no other way of doing so. This is what Jesus and His disciples taught.
Are churches still relevant today? A cursory reading of the New Testament says it all. Of course they are. They lie at the heart of what God is doing. Without them Christianity loses its context and therefore its meaning and purpose: to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature, baptizing the converts into churches where their total salvation in body, soul and spirit can be realized (Matt. 28:19,20). There is no substitute for the ministry of the local church in your life. Its whole membership are called ministers in the New Testament Scriptures, and whether they are called apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists, pastors, or lay people, they all have something to contribute to one another, and their role in your life is vital (Eph. 4:11,12).
Thank God for all of the ministries out there pointing people to the Lord Jesus. Nevertheless, none of them are a substitute for the church of Jesus Christ. It alone is God’s chosen institution. To its people were given the gifts and the power of the Holy Ghost. They alone were commissioned to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to the end (Mark 16:15). It was on them that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-21). And the story goes on. No, I will not apologize for saying that churches are what Christianity is all about and that you can’t properly submit to the Lordship of Christ without being a part of a church that God has chosen to add you to.
Christian, are you a church member? Has God turned the light on in your heart and shown you that your church membership is vital to your destiny? I have been a Christian for forty-two years, and if you were to ask me if there was any one thing that has kept me on track, then I would have to say that it was my unconditional commitment to my church membership. It was there that I found my spiritual home and the life-flow necessary to grow up in Christ. I know it’s God’s desire to do the same for you. Hooray for churches. There is just nothing like them, is there?