I recently asked a question on Facebook “Do you consider the local church to be essential?” I realize that most of the responses were from people that would call themselves Christians and follow Jesus. The response was positive, but I also sensed a bit of confusion or frustration with the church.
I have been in full time ministry for 18 years. I understand that my perspective may be a bit different than someone that does not work for a church. However, I also was a church attender, volunteer, small group leader while working full time for several years before I went into full time ministry. I also grew frustrated and confused about church and stopped going for a period of time. God nudged me back to His church and completely transformed my life.
I see the value of the church, and have experienced it first hand and walked with hundreds of people that have been transformed through the local church. By local church I am talking about any church that believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and that is involved in a local community, whether small town or big city. A local church is a group of people that gather regularly to worship, pray, encourage each other, care for each other and love & serve other people.
The church is God’s instrument to proclaim and demonstrate the gospel to the world, and to usher in the kingdom of God. Jesus said in Mathew16:18 talking to Peter, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
The church belongs to Jesus, He is the head of the church and established the church. His plan was that through the gathering of believers that many lives would be transformed through the good news about what He did for us on the Cross and through His resurrection. Paul tells us in Ephesians 3:10 “His (Jesus’) 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.”
The most essential thing in life is knowing God and believing in Jesus Christ. That is the most essential thing because we are all going to live forever somewhere, either in heaven with God, or separated from God in hell. The church was designed by God to spread the gospel about Jesus and what He did for every person still living.
Of course the church also does other things like care for the hurting, broken and lonely. The church is a place for people to find freedom, find healing, find hope, and then help others do the same. The people in a church are called to share the love of Jesus every day with the world around them. The church was not meant to be a small group to only cares for each other, but that connects with the world, to love and serve others. That is why I love being a part of the local church.
Where I am serving now at Grace Church, we have some God Dreams that I think describe the local church and how it should be functioning. Here are those God Dreams:
- We imagine a church where hurting, broken people can find and follow Jesus Christ the Healer.
- We imagine a church where every Christ follower is being trained and sent to our neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces to make and multiply disciples of Jesus Christ.
- We imagine a church that is building strong marriages, and healthy families in a world where divorce is common and families are fragmented.
- We imagine a church where every Christ follower is fully engaged by giving generously, connecting with other believers, and serving others with their spiritual gifts and talents.
- We imagine a church with a dream team of leaders at every level of ministry, inspiring, innovating, and taking kingdom risks to advance the churches mission of helping people, know God, Find Freedom, Discover their purpose and make a difference.
- We imagine a church where every Christ follower chooses to go on a short-term mission trip in the U.S, or globally to share and show the love of Christ.
- We imagine our church tithing 10% of our people to live among the unreached, to share the gospel, and to make disciples.
- We imagine our church launching multiple locations in our region as a way of making more disciples, reaching the unchurched, and expanding our gospel impact.
- We imagine our church launching multiple safe houses in strategic cities and countries, aimed at restoring hope to vulnerable women and children.
- We imagine a time when our Lead Pastor and his wife will be sent out from our church to equip, release, and coach church leaders and church planters domestically and globally.
That’s the kind of church that is essential. I’m so encouraged that there are thousands of churches like that all over the world. So let’s all do our part by being a part of a church like that. Get involved, get connected, find your purpose and make a difference.