Summary: Does church really matter? It depends.
Woodlawn Baptist Church
September 9, 2007
I want to welcome each of you to today’s services! I trust and pray that you enjoy your time with us and more importantly that you connect with God through our time of worship. In last week’s message I dealt with this question: Does preaching really matter? If you remember we said that while too often we answer that question based on whether or not lives are being changed, the real determiner of whether preaching matters is this: Does God have something to say to us? And if He does, how has He chosen to communicate that message to us? Of course God does have something to say to us, and we saw that it is through the foolishness of preaching that God has chosen to spread that message.
Today I want to move on and ask this question: Does church really matter? I can’t tell you how many times I have asked myself that question. I have even been guilty of saying that if I ever did stop preaching I’d probably just stop attending church altogether. What difference does it make? Why bother with the whole thing?
Preparing for this message led me to do some serious soul-searching. You see, when I determined a couple of weeks ago to preach on this subject, I thought I’d just preach a nice little three-point sermon about the benefits of attending church. But that’s not what this sermon is about. It’s not about attending church. It’s about church. The question is not whether church attendance matters, but whether church matters. The question has nothing to do with the Sunday morning event, but with the living, breathing body we are.
Haven’t you asked whether church matters sometime in the past? Some of you may have even asked it this morning as you were crawling out of bed. What difference does church really make? Like the preaching we talked about last week, more often than we care to admit, even at some subconscious level, we treat church as though it is optional. “I can do better on my own.” “I don’t need to be part of a church to live for God.”
Does church really matter to us? Could you get along without church? Hundreds of thousands of believers today are living outside church. Does it work? Should it work? Do we need to keep doing this every week? Does church really matter?
Thankfully the Bible answers those questions for us. We’re not left to wonder or wander around in darkness. God does have a message for us today, and it simply is that church matters.
For our text today I want us to consider the early months after Paul’s conversion to Christ, after his new birth. We’ll be considering Acts 9:18-30. You may remember the story. Paul was a staunchly religious Pharisee who hated Christ and His followers, the people of the way as they were known. He had made himself quite a reputation for his persecution of the church, arresting many and giving consent to their deaths. In Acts 9 Paul was traveling from Jerusalem with a band of men to Damascus to arrest more of the believers there. Now keep in mind that the distance from Jerusalem to Damascus was about like the distance from here to Texarkana, or from here to Waco or Longview. It was a long ways back then. I don’t know what those people in Damascus were doing or saying, but news of it had reached Jerusalem and Paul was going to put a stop to it. Well you remember then that Jesus intervened in Paul’s life, bringing him to salvation, leaving him blind and in need of direction from the man Ananias. That’s where we pick up in the story. Ananias brings good news to Paul, or Saul as was his Jewish name. Now watch what happens next.
Read Acts 9:18-30.
The first thing Paul did after his conversion was to be baptized. Then he spent some time with the disciples at Damascus. Some of your Bibles say he spent time with the believers there, but that’s a bad translation. They weren’t just believers. The Greek word says disciples – an important difference. While he was with the disciples in Damascus he began preaching and sharing Christ. When that got him run out of town he went to Jerusalem where he tried to join himself to those disciples, who eventually accepted him.
Now, what does any of this have to do with why church matters? First we’ve got to understand what a church is. When Jesus created His church, He never intended church to be what it’s evolved into today. Church in the Bible was simply a group of disciples who were doing life together. Today it has become too much a group of believers who attend worship together. If that’s all church is, then I’d say it is pretty optional. But from the beginning Jesus expected that when people were saved, they would be baptized and be disciples: followers and imitators of Him. Disciples are people who are more than learners. They are apprentices following the Master. Disciples are people who emulate their leader. In other words, there’s a seriousness, a determination to be real reflections of Jesus Christ in this world.