What Good is the Church?
But much of the rhetoric around the place about church is philosophical (thinking about life) or ideological (thinking about life a particular way), and asks whether the church serves a real, or only imagined purpose.
At its heart the real question is “Is God real?” And if the answer is “yes”, then the next question is whether the church really does have some special part to play in relation to God.
You’re unlikely to be surprised that my answers to the above are “yes” and “yes” – “yes” God is real, and “yes” the church has some special part to play.
But how do I defend my answers?
Let me annoy you first of all by claiming that I don’t need to defend my answers in the least, they are my opinions just as your opinions are your own. But having annoyed you with that answer, let me annoy you with a couple more.
One: The world around us here is Australia is generally opposed to God. It isn’t always said, but it is always there. God is gradually pushed out of education, government, not-for-profit organisations, and the list goes on. Essentially God is pushed out of the public space, and the only place that where God is discussed openly is church (or the equivalent in other religions). Now that doesn’t answer the question of whether God is real, but if God is real then it gives a pretty good answer to why the church is important – it is the only place discussing the truth about ultimate reality.
Two: There is actually lots of evidence that God is real. It won’t be admitted into the science academy, but it is pretty convincing all the same. Some things simply are not possible, and many many times very impossible things keep happening when people pray to God about them. I know it doesn’t always happen, but it still happens. The truly impossible only has to happen once in order to demand a change of thinking. And the absolutely, truly impossible has happened a great many times indeed. In my opinion, so many times I am utterly convinced God is real. It is a shame more people don’t do some serious research on impossible events.
Three: (there always has to be a 3, doesn’t there?) My third reason is the incredible change that I have seen occur in people when they have connected with God. In many circles I have heard and read the question “is core change in a person really possible?” I have to say it is, because I have witnessed fundamental change in too many people; believing in God and connecting with God has utterly changed them. No prizes for guessing where most of them have been when huge steps have been taken – church!
I know a lot of religion and religious people are messed up – so are a lot of non-religious people. You can’t paint a whole segment of the population with any single brush. But if God is real, as I contend, it scares me to think what will become of us if we continue as a society to move further and further from God. Again, it brings me back to the church. The church is vital is people are to continue to have the chance of discovering God in a culture that wants to hide that choice.
A final comment back to the church – it makes all the difference in the world what kind of church you are. It makes all the difference in the world what you believe and the strength of your convictions. I still believe that the church is the hope of the world (thanks Bill Hybels), and that when it is operating well, church is the best place on the planet to be – but it can also be the worst.
It is time for us (the church) to shape up, shake of any cobwebs, get rid of bad habits and get down to being what we were meant to be – communities of people following Jesus and offering faith, hope and love to the world.