A guest contribution by Daniel F. Nicksich:
A man was aimlessly driving down a road near his house. He had no particular destination in mind. He was simply driving and meditating on the negative turn his life had taken. He was driving past a church building and saw a sign noting the Sunday evening service started at 6 P.M. It was 5:59.
Without thinking why, he found himself pulling into the parking lot and entering the building. To his surprise, the sermon dealt with some of the very issues he was wrestling with. It was the first time he ever heard the Bible applied to everyday life. For him, and others like him, the church matters because it is a beacon of hope.
Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 that He would build His church. The church matters because Jesus created it to be the means by which the message of salvation is conveyed so that men might be saved, transformed, and sent out into the world to do His work.
The church has a great responsibility. The church has the purpose of revealing God’s mystery to the world. In the New Testament, the word mystery means that which was once hidden but has now been revealed. Notice Paul’s inter-twining of the ‘mystery’ and ‘the church’:
Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
Thus, the church (God’s people) are to bring to light God’s mystery. Elsewhere this mystery is said to be the ‘the hope of glory’ which is ‘Christ in you.’ (Col. 1:26, 27). In other words, the intent of all that God is doing in and through the church; all the teaching, events, and activities are intended to help everyone become more like Jesus. Neither the church building nor church membership numbers are the focus but only that the church (the people) becomes more like Jesus.
In Acts 9, we read of Saul seeking to destroy ‘the church’ (Acts 8:1-3). How so? It was not by seeking to burn down or destroy any church buildings. Rather, he sought to destroy the church by going house to house to find, arrest, and persecute Christians.
When Jesus said the gates of Hades (death itself) would not prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18), He was affirming that His church matters and will be protected by Him until He returns to gather His people (His church).
The church matters. It matters enough that better than a half dozen of our New Testament writings are specifically addressed to churches. Churches that were praised, encouraged, rebuked, or warned in some way. In addition, some of these and other letters refer to still other churches (3 John, Romans). The church matters for the Holy Spirit pays it a lot of attention in the writing of the New Testament.
In Hebrews 10:25, we are told, “not to give up meeting together.” In context, the obvious intent of this encouragement is gathering with others to worship. Sounds like a gathering of ‘the church’ to me. In Acts 2:42, we see the church, in its beginning days, devoted to gathering to be taught by the apostles, to experience fellowship (deep, rich relationships), to break bread (partaking of the Lord’s Supper), and to pray together. The church matters and in the same way today, we gather to learn, enjoy fellowship, remember Jesus, and to share in times of prayer. The church matters.
This writer walked into a church during a low point in his life. He wasn’t even sure why he went in. He now has deep friendships with fellow believers in numerous states as a result of 30 years of ministry in the Lord’s Kingdom. It all started with that unplanned visit. The church matters!
Dan Nicksich is the senior minister of Vanville Church of Christ in Martinsburg, West Virginia. He is an avid fan of Pittsburgh sports and a published writer in a variety of Christian publications. His kindle book contributions are available here.