By Matt Morrison
It’s amazing how “church” can be such a loaded term. As millennials come up in age, church attendance in the United States is dropping. It seems like everyone has a story of how they were burned, hurt, or disillusioned by their experiences on Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights.
All of this has given way to a popular idea that we can love Jesus but not engage with his Bride. Church involvement is approached as an option, some extra addition to the Christian life. But this concept runs in stark contrast to the commands of the New Testament where the Church is portrayed as a central part of following Jesus.
Much of this comes from significant misunderstandings about the church and why it exists. Here are the top three:
1. IT’S ORGANIZED RELIGION.
We often think of the Church as a stiff institution overburdened by procedures and politics. But in its purest sense, it’s an organic movement of God’s people who are gathering in community to worship Christ and engage in his mission. It’s not an organization, it’s a community.
One of my professors once told me, “You’re walk with God may be personal, but that doesn’t mean it’s private.”
As you look through Scripture, you’ll find that God directs his work through people. He uses individuals to influence the community and uses the community to influence the culture. In the Old Testament, that community is the nation of Israel. In the New Testament, it’s the Church.
Living in biblical community with other believers is a vital component to the Christian faith. It’s impossible to grow into what God has designed us to be as individuals when we separate ourselves from the rest of the body.
2. IT SHOULD ONLY BE DONE ONE WAY.
If you’ve grown up in a local church, you likely have a strong ideal of how a healthy church looks, feels, and functions. With so many denominations and styles of worship, it’s not surprising that many Christians disagree on these things.
From street corner to street corner, no church looks identical to another. But when you begin to travel around the globe, you find that those differences are even more pronounced. While so many of our churches here in the United States meet in steeple-topped brick buildings, converted movie theaters, or strip malls, Christians in other parts of the world gather in neutral locations or underground settings. They meet in homes, over campfires in the woods, or in nondescript buildings. Some sing and others dance. Some read from their Bibles while others, left without written Scripture, recite the stories orally.
We must be careful not to burden others with our stylistic preferences as if they’re biblical commands. While there are certainly biblical guidelines that help us understand the church’s role and function in our lives, how those roles are expressed is often influenced by the surrounding culture – and that’s not a bad thing! The diversity of our worship displays the complexity of the image of God inside us. It makes much of Jesus and puts the power of his gospel on full display.
3. IT’S SOMEWHERE WE GO.
It’s misleading to think we can “go to church.” It’s makes about as much sense as saying we’re “going to family.” The Church is somewhere we belong, something we participate in, and should be a central aspect to our daily lives as Christians. We may meet on Sundays but this is just one way we intentionally fellowship with one another and worship Jesus. In Acts 2, Luke tells us that the early Christians even met daily and new people were regularly coming to Christ.
When we reduce Church to an event we attend or a place we visit, we lose sight of what God has called us to be. Peter calls us “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” That’s infinitely more powerful and significant than a quick hit on a Sunday morning. It’s a declaration of identity.
This is why e3 Partners focuses so heavily on launching new churches among the unreached. The only hope for the world is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s his people who are called to spread it and the only way to ensure lasting change is to establish vibrant, missional, Christ-centric local churches.
They rarely look anything like what we experience here in the United States. They’re often intentionally small. They multiply into new congregations, rather than grow into massive congregations. In India, these churches are growing exponentially, doing more than any foreign missionary could accomplish on his or her own.
Experience it firsthand. Visit e3partnersprod.wpengine.com/missions to learn more.