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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Is a Formal Church Necessary Anymore?

This blog is not about formality. Many of us have given up formality for relevance. Honestly, we can't see why things have to be done in a certain way all the time. We don't understand why these things make a difference in the Christian life.

Yet, in a way I am talking about formality. Is there a need for the church which meets on Sundays, Fridays or any other day of the week? Is there a need since there are so many Christian resources? After all, a Christian could read the books and get as much out of what they needed to know about Christ from them, couldn't he? Sermons? Of course, there are plenty of them online.

Church could have been eliminated a long time ago if church was merely about education or sermons. People need church for a whole set of other reasons.

Church is necessary to create the Christian community. These a where you meet new Christian friends who will be your support team when troubles arise. This is where you find new ministries to get involved in. This is where you become a mentor to someone else and help others through a tough time. No, the Christian life is not about you alone. It is about you with others.

Church should be Christians meeting together to challenge each other to live the life Christ died for. He loved us much to much for us to be moved by the music and sermons but never changed. The Bible says that iron sharpens iron. Christians challenge each other to live in a community of faith. We are responsible for seeing others grow in their faith. We cannot read the Great Commission and think we can live a successful Christian life without others.

Church should be where we consolidate our efforts to do more together than we could do by ourselves. We give and send people as missionaries. We gather together to reach people with the gospel. We become a strong voice of right and wrong when we speak together. Whole communities are changed by the presence of a strong church.

Church encourages us to have stronger families and marriages. Maybe some of this is plain peer pressure but it changes our actions in our homes so that we work harder at staying together.

Church provides immediate support for our children. They interact with other children to realize that their parents are not the only ones who believe in this strange concept of going to heaven because you believe the Son of God died and came back to life. Church interests them in spiritual things. It answers questions parents have a difficult time answering. It is the best place to support values which will lead the children to live honorable lives.

Jesus died for the church. The church is the body of believers who meet regularly to do God's will, worship Him and become like Jesus. No church is perfect and those who seek a perfect church fool themselves. It is full of flawed humans who though they came from sin and continue to sin, work together to walk in the full presence of God. No one in the church has arrived at perfection.

Those critical of the Church do not realize that they are speaking ill of Jesus' bride. You cannot be at peace with the Bridegroom by ignoring the Bride. No one can truly be at peace with Jesus while unconcerned about and unconnected with the church.

No, the formal church is absolutely necessary.

Where are you going to be the next time your church meets?

Hebrews 10:23-25 (NIV) 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

1 comment:

Anthony Chia, high.expressions said...

Well said, Prentis. Just want to add this: Indeed, cyber churches should NOT replace the physical churches, and it is sad that many online preachers, particularly those from the overly grace segment of The Church kept hitting at the institutional churches (they call us "ICs"), and encouraging believers to do without attendance to ICs. By now, we all agree that church is NOT the physical building, but it is a physical gathering of followers of Jesus Christ, who together, form the body. Too much spiritualization with consequent thumbing down of the part of the physical and the body, is NOT in line with the overall counsel of the Word. Sure, we are to worship in spirit and in truth, but people are detached from reality if they forget they are still living an earthly life, our expressions of our worship, in spirit and in truth, come out through our body. Likewise, corporate expressions are to come out through the body, the church. Sure, we cannot all come together, and so, the formation and role of the local churches. The faceless cyberspace (faceless because it matters not, one puts a picture of himself there, or adopts a name, it is still faceless, in a lot of sense of the word!) as replacement for the converging point of believers, begs accountability.

Realistically, we must recognize the weakness of us, Man, and learn to be wise. For example, Scriptures point us to flee from sexual immorality, then we ought to flee when we see it coming. If one thinks too highly of himself, and think that he could fight (instead of flee) temptation of that kind, he is NOT being realistic, and NOT learning the wisdom of the Word. Similarly, if we put ourselves out of accountability completely, and pluck ourselves into a platform of complete freedom of expression, thinking that we could easily self-regulate ourselves, we will run a high risk of stumbling or falling.

When the Word of God said about, if we could NOT love those we can see, our neighbors, how could we love God, it was also meant to tell us that we learn in the physical. The physical face-to-face provides the foundational learning platform which we must have, before we brave the invisible, including the cyberspace. Some of us is better able to manage our sense of accountability in cyberspace, because we have had the benefit of our learning in the physical formal church; some of us failed to realize that, but it is there urging unconsciously for us to be accountable on the net. Our continuance in the physical formal church, our engaging in the face-to-face, is necessary even as we engage others on the net, because it serves as a guard over heart and mind, keeping them in check. Internet is here to stay, yet it should NOT replace the formal church.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions