Summary: Four Fundamental qualities that the church must hold to if it is to remain relevant to every age.
The Church Still Has It!
Text: Verse 18: “…on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
SOME YEARS AGO, TWO MEN grew up in the same small town and attended the same church, the same high school, and then the same college. From there one of them went into law and the other into the ministry. Time passed and their paths eventually crossed. They discussed various things from time to time. One day the lawyer said to his minister friend, “John, I’m worried; we both love the church, but it seems to me that it just hasn’t got it any more.”
Lately I’ve been dong a good deal of thinking about that statement. He didn’t spell out exactly what he meant, but I think I have some understanding. He spoke for a certain element of our society that has come to the same conclusion, albeit, incorrect. When he said that the church hasn’t got it any more, he was feeling that the church was no longer relevant, that it lost sight of its major purpose in the world—that it is spending too much time looking within itself and not enough time looking out at the world and sharing the Gospel of Christ.
Research seems to bear this out. It is estimated that right now, in the dawning of the new century, about 37% of Americans have no connection whatsoever with any church. Now that’s alarming.
“The church hasn’t got it any more.” Friends, the church will always have it when it holds fast to the fundamentals of the faith. Every believer in Jesus Christ needs the fellowship and guidance of the local church. It is a divine and unique organism that is here to stay. It is God’s change agent in the world.
In 1988, Wally Magdangal was pastoring an underground church in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He was a Filipino lay pastor of Christian foreign workers wishing to gather for worship. In 1992, soon after the conclusion of the Gulf War, the house church had grown to over three hundred worshipers, the largest church in the country. The Saudi government became alarmed at the positive impact the church was having and Wally was arrested. While he was in prison, Wally was tortured, abused, and eventually falsely charged with blaspheming Muhammad and Islam. He was tried before the Saudi Arabian High Court and was sentenced to death by public hanging scheduled to take place on Christmas Day 1992. Throughout his terrible ordeal, Wally refused to renounce his faith in Jesus Christ. Outcries from several foreign governments and agencies, including President Fidel Ramos of the Philippines, Amnesty International, and members of the U.S. Congress were made on behalf of Wally to the Saudi Government. And then just a few hours before his scheduled execution, Wally Magdangal miraculously was granted a reprieve. The Saudi Government decided to deport him to the Philippines instead. Today, Wally is itinerant preacher, sharing how the Lord delivered him from persecution.
So, perhaps for some in America, the church seems to be irrelevant, but it can still strike fear into the enemies of the Gospel!
Actually, the church is indispensable to the believer. And it is critical to the world at large.
Nowhere in the Bible does it say we must have our names on a church membership roll to be saved. That doesn’t mean, however, that joining with other believers in a local church is not vital to our spiritual growth. Gathering regularly for worship and instruction encourages love for others, good works, and mutual accountability (Hebrews 10:24-25).
I read an interesting article some time ago that compared a Christian without a church to . . .
a student who won’t go to school
a soldier without an army
a citizen who won’t vote
a sailor without a ship
a child without a family
a drummer without a band
a ballplayer without a team
a honeybee without a hive
a scientist who does not share his findings with his colleagues
Once a person truly becomes a born-again follower of Jesus Christ, he/she needs the warmth and tender care of a local assembly for instruction and training. The church is a nursery for the newborn and a family for all believers. I shudder to think what the world would be like without her. For example, did you know that of the 8 million porn websites on the internet, that 80% of them are accessed?
The writer to the Hebrews put it squarely on the line when he wrote, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another---and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Every pastor hears this excuse for not attending church: “I don’t need to go to church to feel close to God.