“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
– 1 Corinthians 12:27
Perhaps when you were a child, church attendance wasn’t optional in your family. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t dare ask my parents, “Could I just stay home today?” I was taught from a very young age that Sunday is “the Lord’s Day” (the Christian equivalent of the Jewish Sabbath Day). So, when we skip church, we are disobeying the Fourth Commandment: “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.”
Well, that perspective seems long gone. Gone are the days when the overwhelming majority of Americans were convinced that Christianity and weekly church attendance are inseparable; you can’t have one without the other. In today’s busy world, most Christians view church attendance as optional, and far too often other weekend options (i.e., sports, parties, overtime and rest) take precedence. We are now at a point when some atheists have much better church attendance than Christians.
In recent years, thousands of atheists across America have discovered something that many Christians have forgotten: attending church is vitally important and even…fun. Over the past five years, atheist churches (usually called “gatherings”) have popped up all over Great Britain and the U.S. And these gatherings are filled with inspirational teaching, singing and loving fellowship. Sound familiar? It’s quite a paradox: Atheist communities love the church but don’t like God or Jesus. Conversely, many Christians love God and Jesus but don’t like the church.
Could it be that atheists have discovered something that many Christians have long forgotten? I think so. They have discovered that their own stripped-down version of the church is far superior to isolation. Even without Christ, their gatherings meet a need for fellowship and give them a sense of belonging. How much more so is this the case when Christians meet? Without Christ, atheistic churches bring some value to their members. But with Christ, Christian churches bring infinite value to their members.
There are three key metaphors used for Christ’s Church in the New Testament—metaphors that help us grasp how very important the church is. First, the Church is the Body of Christ. In both Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul likens the church to a human body. Just as a body is made up of many parts that each serve a specific purpose, so too the Church has many members—each having an important role to fill. The truth is: The Church can exist without you, but it will be the less for it. And you can exist without the Church, but you will be the less for it. Just as an index finger or big toe is severely handicapped on its own, so too is a Christian spiritually handicapped when he isolates himself from the Body of Christ.
Second, the Church is the Family of God. In 1 Peter 2:17, we are instructed to “love the brotherhood of believers.” Christians call each other “brothers and sisters” because, at the point of conversion, each of us is adopted into God’s family. God becomes our true Father, and we become a cherished member of His household. But as in any family, there is occasional sibling rivalry in the Church. These times of quarreling may be uncomfortable and a bit unnerving, but they should never lead us to abandon our brothers and sisters. Many Christians turn on a dime to lock arms with their blood relatives in times of need. How much more should we be quick to lock arms with our Christian brothers and sisters whose adoptions have been secured by the precious blood of Christ?
Third, the Church is the Bride of Christ. In Revelation 21, the Church is called Christ’s bride. Although this statement is true: “Jesus died on the cross for my sins,” it is more accurate to say, “Jesus died on the cross for the Church’s sins.” He spilled his blood so that his bride (all Christians together) could be washed clean and become the pure, undefiled bride of Christ. This powerful metaphor emphasizes Christ’s great love for the Church. To put it simply: Jesus adores his Church…warts, scars, body odor and all. No one knows the Church’s hang-ups and shortcomings better than Jesus. If anyone ever had a legitimate reason for abandoning the Church it would be Jesus. But he never has and never will leave the Church. Why not? Because he loves it as his bride. He is committed to it for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health. In the same way, he calls every Christian to love and stay committed to His Church till death do us part.
Time will tell how long atheistic assemblies will survive. Regardless, the Church of Jesus Christ is the hope of the world, because the Church of Jesus Christ has the most important building block of any life-changing church: Christ himself. Every church has problems. No church is perfect. (If you find a perfect church, please don’t join it, because then it won’t be perfect anymore.) The Church is the glorious Body of Christ, the Family of God and the Bride of Christ. The Church needs you, and you need the Church. Even atheists are realizing this fact.
Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit www.fccvv.com and join us for worship Sundays at 10 am.