The Church Doesn’t Need People. People Need the Church
You are the salt of the earth! You are the light of the world! These might be some of the most famous phrases of Jesus (Matthew 5:12-16), yet I am not sure we often fully engage their meaning. Ultimately, Jesus is saying, “The world needs you.”
As a pastor I have sat at countless meetings and talked about how we, of Saint So-and-So Church, need people. If we had more people in the pews, we would have more income. If we had more people in the pews, we could do more things. If we had more people volunteering, then we could… this or that. Sometimes it looks more like a church is advertising for new employees, or models for their photos, then being church. I have frequently heard dying congregations say they need more people to keep going!!!!! Or perhaps the worst, almost vampiric, phrase, “If we don’t get more young people in, then we will have to close our doors.”
First, the success of Christ’s Church is up to Christ. Thank you very much. He is absolutely not depending on me or anyone to keep His Church afloat. He has done quite well over the years too! In fact, the biggest obstacles to His Church are usually those in it!
You are the light of the world. You are the salt of the earth.
It is more than a little amazing Jesus would say the world needs a group of fools like myself. I can get lost just staring at things we lack at my current call. But this is how the ridiculous grace of God works. God calls a thing a thing even though we might say it looks like something else! He calls a bunch of sinners who barely trust His Son, the Body of Christ. He calls some halfwit like me, a shepherd. Instead of going out by Himself to make disciples, He tells the same dorks who showed up late at His resurrection party to go out into every ethnicity and make disciples. Of course, He does not leave it up to them to figure out how. He tells them wonderfully specifically; baptize and teach. Oh, and they (we) are not alone. He promises, “I will be with you always” (Matthew 28:16-20).
Christ’s Church doesn’t need people. People need His Church! Just as the world needs light, the world needs the forgiveness of sins, and the promises of resurrection we enjoy and proclaim. You do not need your next-door neighbor to join your community. She needs the gifts of Christ. She needs to know God actually loves her, His Son died for her, and death is not the end. The Church exists for the sake of the world! Jesus makes it quite plain. You would not light a candle and hide it under a basket! Its light is needed by those in the room, outside, and throughout the world.
Crazy as it sounds, Jesus places His precious gifts of forgiveness and eternal life into the hands of sinner/saints and shakes them all over the world. As the culture grows increasingly antagonistic to Christianity, churches act surprised and even angry at a mad public. Why would we expect anything different from people walking in darkness?
Instead, what if Christians actually believed people needed the Good News of Jesus? What if Christians actually believed they have the cure for the loneliness, despair, and fear that overwhelms a lot of their neighbors? What if Christians actually believed they were the salt of the earth; their words and deeds make life worth living. What if they believed they were the light of the world! Then the church would not look like they are collecting people in order to survive, but freeing people so they will not only survive, but thrive in Christ!