Church gets a lot of negative press these days, with some saying that they are happy to believe in Jesus but want nothing to do with the church, and others talking about the potential end of it, and yet the church is the big idea of Jesus and what he said he would build, so we should not be quick to dismiss it.
Yes, church hasn’t always lived up to what it should be, things have been done in it’s and it’s Saviour’s name that should never have been done, at other times it’s got so wrapped up in itself and lost sight of it’s reason for being, or else it’s lost it’s life and power and relied on religious rituals to get by, etc.. but that is not a reason to write it off.
At Gateway Church (my home church) we’ve just started a new series based on 1 Corinthians called Encountering God in the Church. We may be familiar with encountering God personally, but in the church? seriously? isn’t that where we get all religious? And the answer is yes and no.
Scripture teaches us that the church is being built into a dwelling place of God by the Spirit, the very Temple of God, a place where God would live, and love, and walk, and talk, and save and heal and deliver and help…. (Eph. 2:21, 22; 2 Cor. 6:16-18)
Scripture tells that it’s the place where together we experience and comprehend the love of God in all of it’s height, length, breadth and depth as we see God at work in one another’s lives – a text that is so often personalised but was actually written to a community, and therefore to be understood together (Eph. 3:14-21)
Scripture also says it’s the place where we are to be filled with the Spirit and experience the gifts and ministries of the Spirit- not just a personal experience but a corporate and beneficial experience (Eph. 5:18-20; 1 Cor. 12-14).
It’s also the place where we learn to bear the fruit of the Spirit as God throws a whole lot of lives and personalities together who are all in the process of transformation, being changed from one degree of glory of another (Gal. 5:1-26).
It’s the place where together we can hear God through His Word, hear him speak through the gifts of the Spirit, and work out what it means to be the people of God and serve the purpose of God in our generation (Acts 2:42 and letters).
It’s also the place where God provides as together we learn to bear one anothers burdens and meet the needs that exist among us (Acts 2:44,45), the place where we can lift out voices together in prayer and see God move in amazing ways.
It’s also the place where we worship God, not individually but together as a body, a place where we learn to blend hearts and voices to the praise of His name, singing his praise, declaring his truth.
Yes, we can encounter God personally but it was never meant to be just me and Jesus. We were made to know God together, to experience Him and grow in and through community with all the challenges that that provides in this fallen world as that which is to be changed in us or is being changed comes up against that which is to be changed or is being changed in one another.
That is what Corinthians is about, it’s about a people who had been saved and made holy by God, a people in whom he dwelt, yet a people who fell well short of God’s intention, an imperfect people who thought that they had it all worked out, had superior knowledge and wisdom, thought they were reigning as kings and didn’t need Paul or his writings. They needed to learn again the ways of God both personally and together.