Summary: 21st in a series from Ephesians. Being part of the church is about far more than meeting my own needs and desires.
This week I came across an interesting website called Churchshoppers.com. Here is what that site claims they can do for you:
Finding the right home church is one of the most important decisions you will make for you and your family.
Your place of worship needs to inspire, encourage and challenge you as well as utilize the unique gifts and talents you have to offer.
Searching for a home church usually consists of making a list from the Yellow Pages and spending several weeks, even months, attending various services that often do not match your family’s style of worship or specific care needs. Time, especially our spiritual time, is extremely valuable and is not best served by this type of church search.
Let Churchshoppers help!
Using your criteria in our search engines, Churchshoppers narrows the field from hundreds of churches to a select group of churches with whom you share deep levels of compatibility. Where other services provide you with an address and phone number, Churchshoppers matches you to possible churches based on compatibility in the most important areas of life – denominations, preaching style, music style, children’s ministry and even more!
Now there is certainly nothing wrong with a service like that which could help people find a church that’s right for them. But as I’ve expressed to you previously in our journey through Ephesians, I am concerned about this whole consumer church mentality that places all the emphasis on what a church can do for me. In this particular case, I was especially taken aback by that last line that described the “most important areas of life” as denominations, preaching style, music style, [and] children’s ministry.”
Perhaps we shouldn’t be all that surprised at this “me-first” approach to church. It seems that, especially in our culture, the gospel is far too often presented as though it was designed for our personal benefit and enjoyment. We have been deceived into thinking that Jesus died on the cross so we can have a happy, peaceful life. We’ve been told, “Just come to Jesus and you can have a perfect family, and a nice house in the suburbs so you can drive your brand new SUV to your fulfilling job.” So it’s just natural that the same kind of mindset has permeated our attitudes about why we’re part of the church.
But as we’ve seen in our journey through Ephesians, the focus is not on us and our happiness. The focus is completely on this great God who has chosen in His infinite wisdom to bless us with all these spiritual blessings. It is our privilege to participate in God’s work of redemption and to share in all these blessings, but God has not just done all this for our own personal enjoyment, although that is certainly a byproduct. God had gifted us with His grace so that together with the other members of His family we can participate in the process of paying it forward into the lives of others.
Although Paul has only used the word “church” once up to this point in his letter, the concept of the church has clearly been in view throughout what he has written. But as we come to our passage for this morning, Paul is going to focus clearly on the church and why we should be a part of what God is doing through the church. Let’s read this passage out loud together.
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Ephesians 3:10, 11 (NIV)
One of the advantages, or disadvantages, depending on your viewpoint, in going through a book like Ephesians in detail verse by verse is that it forces me to deal with some passages like this one that are rather difficult. I’ll be real honest with you. My first thought was just to preach one message on the first 13 verses of chapter 3, because if I did that, I could just kind of skip over verse 10, in particular, and not really have to deal with it. But that really wouldn’t be fair to you or to me.
This passage is difficult for two reasons:
• We have to deal with the idea of the manifold wisdom of God being made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. As we’ll see in a few moments, that’s a concept that’s not real easy to get our arms around..
• For me, the more difficult issue, though, is how do I take this passage and explain it in a way that we can actually take and use it in our lives.
As I’ve pondered this passage throughout the week, I came to realize that these words do contain some very practical, relevant principles for all of us who are followers of Jesus Christ. In fact, in this passage, Paul deals with a real fundamental issue for all of us. He gives us three compelling reasons why all of us need to be part of this body he calls the church. And, as we should expect by now from Paul, those reasons go far beyond just what I can get out of church. These principles are an antidote to the whole concept of the “consumer church. Let’s look that these three reasons why every believer needs to be part of the church.