Summary: In a world of hurt and brokenness, the church is a place of life and hope with a unique message of salvation through Jesus Christ.
When you need medical treatment, you go to the doctor, or to a hospital. When you need an education, you go to school. When you need justice, you go find a lawyer, or go to court. When you need water, you go to the tap; or food, you go to the pantry. But where do you go when you need hope? Where do you go when you need salvation? Where do you go when you need life?
Is the church really important? Why does in the church matter? In my experience, the Church does matter, we need the church. Our world needs the church, because there are some things that only the church can provide for people. The best I can tell, the church is about the only place in the world where people can still find hope. And I know that by the power of Jesus Christ, the church has a monopoly when it comes to salvation and abundant life! Over the next four weeks, we are going to consider in depth why the church matters. It is my hope that as we explore this question today and in the coming weeks, we will be reminded of why the church is important in our lives, we will be given language to share the story of the church’s relevance in the world, and we will challenge one another to live more fully into our covenant as members of Christ’s church
As we ponder such questions in the coming weeks, I am going to take time at the beginning of each sermon to share my answer to the question of the day. I will do this because I think on some matters we express ourselves best when we speak from our own experience. This will give you an opportunity to get to know me better. But I also hope that as I share my story, it will help you think about your own story: how it is similar, or different, and why it is important to share your story with others.
So why does the church matter to me? To answer that question, I have to go back more than 35 years. I was born just a week after Easter Sunday and baptized a month later. Since my baptism to this day, I have missed relatively few Sundays at church—probably averaging no more than two to three a year except for my college years when I had trouble finding a church where I felt like I really connected. As many of you know, you don't spend so much time in a church without it making a difference in your life. And church has made a difference for me.
Church is where I was cared for when I was a baby. It was where I went to preschool. Church is where I learned about Christ, and where I first learned to sing. Through the church, I learned my identity in Christ and gained confidence in who I am, a person created and loved by God. In the church I professed my faith in Christ on the day I was confirmed. During my junior high and high school years, I believe, the church kept me out of trouble because I was busy with youth and choir and handbells. Through the church I am sent out on missions, and I have learned to be always mindful of the needs of others and to serve others before myself. And I also learned that I am never doing those things well enough! (Ha!)
In the church, I encounter God in Christ Jesus weekly in special ways through worship, study, prayer, and fellowship with the community of Christians. And from the church I am sent out with fellow Christians to serve Christ and serve others; sharing with the world the same love that we know and experience through Christ's Church. In the church, I learn what it is to be a Christian; to value what Christ values and to follow Christ's example in my own life.
More recently, I have found that the church matters to me because of what the church can be in the midst of a lost and broken world. The church CAN be a place where there is no hatred. The church CAN be a place where all people are loved as children of God, despite what the world may say about them. The church CAN be a place without conflict, without fighting, and partisanship. The church CAN be a sanctuary, a safe haven, a place where there is no need to defend yourself against attacks of any kind. The Church CAN be a place of forgiveness. The church CAN be a reflection of the Kingdom of God, a place of healing, justice, mercy, grace, joy, hope, and love. Now, admittedly, I am often disappointed when the Church does not live up to the standards established by Christ, but I hold out hope that we will one day be the Church we are called to be in every way possible. That’s why I’ve invested my life in this work of pastoring the Church, because to me, it’s something worth giving my life for.