Summary: Sometimes Christians treat the church as an emergency service … a place to go when you need spiritual help and security, but to be avoided when all is well. But the church is the only institution which can stand against the gates of Hades. Therefore church is an essential service.

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Matthew 16:13-20

Church – The Essential Service

What do we do when we have an emergency?

When there is fire … we call the Fire Brigade

When there is a street fight … we call the Police.

When there is a car accident and people are injured … we call the Ambulance.

That’s who we think of when we have an emergency isn’t it:- police; fire brigade; ambulance. But did you know there is another institution in our society which is also used as an emergency service … it’s called the church.

I bet you didn’t know that. But it is true.

When people have a baby what do quite a few still do? They go down to the church to have them baptised or christened, or dedicated or a religious naming ceremony. Even though some never intend to come back, for some reason having the church involved, makes people feel their child is safe.

Or what about marriages? There are plenty of marriages that place in a church, or which are conducted by a religious celebrant, between two people who have never really been religious before. But they want “god” to be smiling down on them on their wedding day.

Then of course there is the funeral. So many funerals will have a religious content. Read Psalm 23. Sing Amazing Grace.

Even for people, or for families, where religion has not really been a part of the family ethos.

The church is treated like an emergency service. You go there at specific times for very specific needs. As we think about the way the church is view I want to make two observations.

If it is the situation that people are treating the church as an emergency service … I think we should run with it and help.

Heaps of people ran to Jesus in emergencies, and Jesus walked with them in that moment.

The church would not be the church if she was not willing to help people who are hurt, bruised and suffering.

If we can somehow speak into the key moments of the lives of people … when they have children, when the get married, when they pass away … is we get invited in – even for the wrong reason – then we should take the invitation.

The other observation is a little more closer to home. Even as people who are connected to church, do we treat her as an emergency service?

It is the place we go to on Sunday to be seen – so that we can keep doing the Monday to Saturday stuff with a little less guilt.

When we find ourselves in the spiritual depths we run to the church – but when the crisis is over … well, where are we?

You see where I am coming from.

Church just can’t be an emergency service in our lives. A tack-on. An after-thought. A take-or-leave institution.

Why is that?

Because the church is not just an emergency service. She is an essential service.

Indeed I would say that the church is the most essential service, of all the services you can name in a community.

Now that is a pretty bold statement to make … so let’s test it by Scripture. The question we are asking is this one

Is the church an essential service to the community?

Read Matthew 16:13-20

Jesus is reaching a turning point in His ministry. The next verse, Matthew 16:21, says,

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

We are getting to the pointy end of Jesus’ ministry, so Jesus needs to be sure that the disciples have really got it.

Are they with Him?

Do they understand what He is all about?

These are serious questions that need a serious answer. So Jesus conducts a mini-inquiry.

Who do people say the Son of Man is?

Here is God’s Son asking a group of rough, uneducated, faith-wavering disciples to give an evaluation of ministry.

What is the popular opinion about My work?

How does the public respond to My miracles?

Is the message I preach every day and in every place being received?

What does human logic say when they see Me in action?

That is the question.

And what does human logic conclude? The disciples have heard the public comments, perhaps even from friends and relatives. They have a fair idea about the popular view of Jesus.

Some say You are John the Baptist. A popular itinerate preacher calling people to repent, a man who constantly challenges the establishment. One who is a forerunner to the Messiah.

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