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We Need the Church! (Why We Need the Church, Part 1)

And he put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1.22, 23

Keeping pace?

The increasing decline and cultural marginalization of Christianity in America and the West is beginning to be a cause for alarm on the part of many believers.

In this country many churches are thriving – America invented the “mega-church,” after all, with its mall-like propensity to offer all things to all people in only the hippest and most contemporary modes. And even if they aren’t thriving, most churches are at least managing to preserve their status quo against the changing tides of culture and moral values.

But the growth of the Church is not keeping pace with the growth of the population as a whole, and the influence of Christianity in every area of life is greatly diminished, compared with previous generations.

Efforts to “reform” the churches, by turning to more contemporary modes of architecture, programming, management, and worship, have not succeeded in making the Church more relevant and essential for contemporary life. In many ways, the gap between believers and the unbelieving world is growing, and tensions between these two communities are evident in many areas. In other ways, the Church tends more and more simply to reflect the social, cultural, and moral interests and values of the surrounding world.

The decline of Christianity in America has thus led some believers – perhaps many – to a diminished view of the Church and its importance for modern life. Some have abandoned the Church altogether, declaring that they “love Jesus but hate the Church.”

Many have so transformed the very idea of “church” that the faith community in which they are involved bears little resemblance to anything in prior American Church history.

Still others regard their church as a kind of safe spiritual haven against the storms of this age in flight from God, but they hold out little hope the Church can make much difference in the way of things.

The Church as Paul saw it

Christians in the early 21st century have lost sight of the Church as God intends us to experience and express it. For the Apostle Paul, as, indeed, for all the apostles and early Christians, the Church was the Body of Christ, the continuing incarnation of the reigning and conquering King of Glory. The Church, according to the apostles, is the centerpiece of Christ’s historical agenda (Matt. 16.18). Whatever Christ intends to do on earth prior to His imminent return, the focal point of that work will be in and through the Church.

Further, the Church is the agent and broker of the Kingdom of God. Christians have been translated from the world kingdom of unbelief, darkness, and sin into the Kingdom of Light and of God’s dear Son (Col. 1.13, 14). Where Christians are, and especially where they gather and work together, there the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit is most in evidence (Rom. 14.17, 18).

That, at least, is how the apostles understood the Church.

Jesus Christ intends to fill the entire cosmos with Himself, that is, with the knowledge of God and His glory (Hab. 2.14; cf. Mal. 1.11). He has poured out His Spirit into the Church and commissioned His followers to make all the nations disciples (Matt. 28.18-20). Jesus is filling all things with Himself, and that fullness has its beginning and fount in those who believe in Jesus, in the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ (Jn. 7.37-39).

The world needs the Church

Which means that we need the Church. The world needs the Church if it is ever to know the salvation of Jesus Christ and the hope of God’s glory. And Christians need the Church for reasons I intend to unpack rather more fully in the installments to follow in this series.

Paul insisted that believers have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2.16). In the mind of Christ the world must come to know the glory of God and be filled with the knowledge of Jesus and His Kingdom, and the way Christ intends to accomplish this is in and through the Church.

We do not have the mind of Christ if we are not thinking the same way about His Body, the Church. We need the Church, and if we do not think this is so, then we do not have the mind of Christ.

Next steps

Talk with some of your fellow believers. Ask them what they understand Paul to mean in Ephesians 1.22, 23 when he says the Church is “the fullness of him who fills all in all.” How would you assess the attitude of your fellow believers toward their own church? What about your own attitude? Print some copies of today’s ViewPoint column and share it with your friends. Invite them to read this week’s series each day, then plan to get together at the end of the week and discuss the question: Why do we need the Church?

Additional Resources

Download this week's study, Why We Need the Church.

Sign up for ViewPoint Leaders Training and start your own ViewPoint discussion group.

The Church is the flash point for revival, but only if we prepare for it as we should. Order a copy of T. M.’s book, Preparing Your Church for Revival, from our online store.

And men, download our free brief paper, “Men of the Church: A Solemn Warning,” by clicking here.

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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