By Joel A. Hess –
The Church is dying. We need to save the Church. Why are people leaving? If we don’t get more young families in here, we won’t be here anymore. Christians need to have more kids. Ugh! Have you heard people desperately exclaim these concerns and questions? Probably. Barna Research regularly releases stats to frighten Western church bodies. We see numbers thrown out about diminishing worship attendance. We are given statistics upon statistics about the general perception of Christianity and religion. We have been told that Church needs to do something, anything, to keep afloat.
Subsequently, the fear of a dying Church has created a cottage industry of church consultants. Church bodies earmark millions of dollars and establish thousands of committees to figure how to keep it afloat. Individual churches speak urgently about doing something before the Church is empty. We are warned every day a church closes its doors. We must save the Church, right? Isn’t that why we do outreach and encourage our members to evangelize? We don’t need to save the Church, local or worldwide.
Jesus made it extraordinarily clear as recorded by Matthew in chapter 16 of his Gospel. “Upon this rock (Peter and his confession that Jesus is the Christ), I will build My church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it.”
Don’t worry about saving the Church! That should literally never be a part of the conversation. Just because a church in downtown Detroit needed to close its doors does not mean the Church died! The building did. The particular organization within the One Holy and Apostolic Church may have died, but the believers didn’t. They either moved or are with the Church Triumphant. They changed address. But the church isn’t even close to dying. It’s just beginning!
It is so tempting to confuse particular organizations, constitutions, and buildings used by Christians with Christ’s Church, His body, God’s people! While these things are necessary and God-pleasing as they support God’s people, the Church, they are not the Church. By reminding ourselves of that, we can focus on what God wants the Church to do: make disciples of Jesus for the sake of making disciples of Jesus—not to sustain some organization or building.
The Church doesn’t need people; people need the Church. Jesus doesn’t need people; people need Jesus. They need the life, peace, and hope that is only found in Him. The Church is the vehicle through which Jesus brings people out of darkness and into light. Evangelism should be centered on the love for the person being evangelized, not the love for a particular mode of organization, though the Church is indeed an organization. Just as we have been found by Christ, given forgiveness and eternal life through Him, so also our same Lord finds others through us to give them the same gifts.
Don’t worry about the Church. Worry about your neighbor. Love them. Serve them. Give them the hope you have. Invite them to the community of believers, not because it will keep the Church alive, but because they will be nourished by His life-giving word and covenant of body and blood through the Church.
Jesus says to the world, “Come to me all who are tired and weary, and I will give them rest!”
And lo, I will be with you always until the end of the Age. Come, Lord Jesus!