5 REASONS THE CHURCH IS STILL AROUND
It's actually remarkable. Considering the virulent, persistent, aggressive attacks on the Church over the past 1,985 years, it's remarkable that not only has the Church survived, but it has flourished and spread around the world. The fact that you attend a church today, in the twenty-first century, is due to five profound reasons that should lead the reader to wonder.
...I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.JESUS OF NAZARETH (later of Capernaum) Matthew 16:18b
The Church has survived through to the present day because it has been an agent of good and progress in the world. From its outset, the Church began to care for those the world deemed outcasts. This included, widows, orphans, lepers, and the aged.
"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."James 1:27
This became the foundation for the establishment of hospitals, welfare agencies, and schools. The Christian worldview values each human being as bearing the image of God (imago dei) and therefore possessing inherent dignity. This means that a person who is newborn or even preborn is worthy of our care and support, as is a person with a highly contagious incurable disease, or a person at the end of their life.
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another."
An atheist was once decrying the missionary activity of Christians among Pacific Islanders - in particular, how Christians had "destroyed the existing native culture of the islanders." As chance would have it, there happened to be a person at that public meeting who was a native of one of the islands which the atheist had referred to. During the Q&A he asked the Professor whether he realised that his native ancestors had been cannibals? His question to the atheist professor continued, "Do you know what my ancestors would have done to you if you had arrived on our island before the Gospel came?" The audience instantly recognised that the Pacific Islander had shown the atheist's case to be ill-informed. Ravi Zacharias makes a similar point to atheists when he asks them how they might feel, if on a dark late night inner city street four pierced and tattooed large black men came out of a dimly lit alley carrying objects in their hands and were approaching you - if it would make any difference to how you felt if you learned that they were Christians who were just leaving their weekly BIble Sudy meeting? Yes, the Church has been a positive agent for good and progress in the world.
And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
Second Timothy 2:24-26
The Church has given expression for mankind's most natural purpose: to worship God through singing, poetry, music, art, drama, and literature. The question for any person is never Do you worship? But, What or Who do you worship? Every person worships. Just as ducks are designed and created to paddle across water, fly closer toward the Equator in Winter, quack, and waddle - so every human being is designed and created to meet with other humans and worship the Creator who is the Kings of Kings and Lord of Lords.
All the earth worships you
and sings praises to you;
they sing praises to your name." Selah.Psalm 66:4
Jesus said that if people didn't declare the praises of God, "the stones would cry out" (Luke 19:40). It should be every person's priority to be in the House of God with other worshipers worshiping The Lord of The Universe. Wise Christian parents know that their children learn more about devotion to God by what they see their parents do than what they hear their parents tell them they should do.
The Church's ministers have been agents of comfort, consolation, reconciliation, and guidance to people - often in their darkest days. Jesus described Himself as the "Good Shepherd' (John 10)and all who minister on His behalf follow in His blood-stained footprints and are to be His underShepherds. They are called to care, lead, guide, feed, tend to, watch over, the community given to them by Christ. Down through the past two millennia, literallly hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of men and women have done just that. Most of these ministers have gone unnoticed by the world, unknown to those outside of their charge, and often unappreciated by most in their charge - yet they have gladly laid down their lives for their community because of the deep love of Christ for God in their lives.
In my own city of Launceston, ministers of The Christ played a tremendously important role in the establishment and ongoing welfare of our city. I think of Pastor John West, a Congregational Minister, who worked to abolish the convict colony and promote free speech by establishing The Examiner Newspaper. We could also reminisce about some of the more well now ministers of the Gospel who worked as agents of peace and inspiration - not just to their churches, but to their communities and nation. I think of Pastor Charles Simeon who served as the Pastor of Kings Church, Cambridge England for 53 years and contributed not just to the religious life of Cambridge, but its educational and social life as well. In the United States we think fondly of Pastor Martin Luther King Jnr and the amazing impact he led for the cause of Civil Rights there. In Australia, ministers such as F.W. Boreham and Gordon Moyes have contributed to the welfare of our nation and played a positive role in sport, business and politics.
The Church's establishment, spread, and sustainance is due to the decree of Jesus Christ and His abiding Word. Jesus Christ is the omnipotent (all-powerful), omnipresent (all-present), omniscient (all-knowing), eternal, risen Lord. The Church is His "Plan A". He not only decreed that it should it be established (Matthew 16:18), He has decreed that it should spread throughout the world -
And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
Jesus Christ not only sustains the Church "unto the end of the age", He sustains every molecule in the cosmos!
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
The Church is the visible expression of the Kingdom of Christ now and a portend of its ultimate expression after all evil is vanquished from the Universe. It is a majestic sign and wonder to the limitless power and majesty of The Christ. It was prophesied of in Daniel 2:44 as a stone that struck the feet of Nebuchadnezzar's statue and then grew into a great mountain which filled the earth (Dan. 2:34-35). This speaks of Christ and His Body - the Church.
The Church's existence has been enabled by the presence of the Holy Spirit Who has empowered Christ's followers as well as filling them Christ's presence and gifts, and has led and guided the Church througout the ages and world. The Church was conceived in the heart of Christ and born on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out. The Church is comprised of Spirit regenerated, Spirit empowered, Spirit filled, Spirit baptised, Spirit enabled, Spirit led, followers of Christ. He is the "oil" in our "lamps" (Matthew 25) and He is the One that the Apostle Paul exhorted all believers should continually seek and be filled with (Eph. 4).
The Church is no accident. The Church is no mere institutional legacy. The Church is not merely an organisation - it is an organism - the living body of Christ on earth. If you are a believer, you have the utter privilege of being a part of the Church of Jesus Christ! Sundays now are not for homework, time-to-yourself, time-with-the-family, but a day we dedicate to the One who declared - I am building!
to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.
See you Sunday.