Summary: With churches declining & dying, the question should be ask, "Is the church still needed." This message gives 3 Biblical reasons why the church is mandatory.
Is the Church Still Needed?
* At the beginning of the 20th century most of America was rural. For the rural population life was hard. They made their way by the sweat of their brow and their calloused hands. Transportation, for the most part was still by ‘horse & buggy (or wagon).’ One of the big traditions during those days was that on Sunday the pastor would arrive at the church building around daylight or shortly after for the purpose of ringing the church bell. The sounding of this bell served as a reminder to everyone that, ‘today is the Lord’s Day, get your chores done, the horses hitched, and come to church.’ (By the way, this was the reason that SS began at 9:45am. That was the earlier the farmers could get ready & get to church.)
* In the USA “going to church” has always been a big deal and in many cases, even expected. In my lifetime, I can recall that the church was the center of community & family life. We know, in recent years, church attendance has greatly declined and even been questioned.
* George Barna studied ‘trends’ for church & religion over the 20 year period from 1991 to 2011 exposing some troubling facts. In 1991, 46% of adults strongly believed & affirmed the Bible as being ‘totally accurate in all it principles’ while in 2011 that slumped to 38%. Those describing God as ‘all-knowing, all-powerful, & the perfect creator of the universe dropped by 7% to 67% of adults.
* Weekly Bible reading (outside church services) dropped by 5%, church volunteerism has dropped by 8%, and adult attendance has dropped by 9%. The only significant finding of something going the other direction (rising) was in the matter of being born again which showed a 5% increase. This is a little puzzling, but not surprising.
* Based on these facts the question which I ask today is found in the title of this message: “Is the church still needed today?”
* Honestly, most people don’t need just another meeting, another activity, or even another drain on their time, energy or finances. Based on the scripture we have just read, I submit to you that the “Church” is not only needed today, but if we are to salvage our culture, our community, and our country, church is required.
* Candidly no one can do what the church can do. I’m not talking in terms of social, governmental, political, recreational or community, although these things are all a part of what the church can do; what I am saying is that the church offers what no one else can offer – we offer not ‘some answers’, we have ‘The answer’ – in Jesus. From the text, I offer you three thoughts which confirm this essential need.
1. Opportunity – Most people do not see the church as a ‘field of opportunity.’ Sadly & truthfully, many churches have taken the opportunity of the gospel & turned it into oppression by the gospel. This is a perversion of the church. In verse 19 Jesus says, “I will give you the KEYS.” Key holders always are people with opportunity. The people with keys open doors and lock doors. An open door is an opportunity.
* But don’t miss this; the church holds the keys to ‘heaven & earth.’ Our Lord Jesus has given the church the power, the authority, and even the answers that this world needs. He says, “Whatever you bind or loose (open or lock down) on earth IS always locked down in heaven.” There are some things on this earth which should be locked up & things which should be opened up and God has given the church the authority, the right if you will, to do the deed.
* By the way, God has (what we call) ‘mastered this system’. Let me explain. We are in the process of changing the external locks on our facilities. Instead of those people who need to get in the different places having to carry a different key for each lock, we will ‘master’ the system, which means, while there may be an key for each lock, there will also be a master key which unlocks & lock every door.
* God has mastered this system and written it down in His Holy word. Everything we need to know for life and practice can be found in His word.
* Do you know when & how a church gets in trouble? It is when the members begin to ‘know more’ than God’s word. The principles of God’s word are enough to govern our lives, our homes, our government, our politics, and our church. When we adhere to His word, without wavering, we have the opportunity to open the doors which need to be open and lock the doors which need to be closed.