Monday, June 27, 2011

Why Church? - Part 1

This week we began a new series called, "Why Church?" It seems that there is always a movement, and one that seems to be increasingly aggressive in recent years, to marginalize church attendance. Books get written by Christians to convince other Christians that there is no longer a need for the local church -- that it is no longer relevant.

While I firmly believe that the method and structure to how we "do" church continually changes to remain relevant, church itself is always relevant. The purpose behind the church is always an important part of what God does.

I realize the Bible does not give us an outline for what our church service is supposed to look like... do 2 fast songs, a slow song, pray, receive an offering, teach, do announcements and dismiss. It does, however make it clear that the church is the Bride of Christ. So, it will always be relevant. There is indeed personal salvation, but God's Word speaks to the church. Paul's letters (the epistles) were written to and for churches -- not individuals. Even Timothy and Titus were pastors and Paul wrote to them to encourage them in running their churches.

Some people think they can read the Bible and pray, listen to worship music in their car or watch Christian television (which are all good things, of course) and THAT is church for them. After all, we live in a day and age of busy schedules and micromanaged time (except when we spend hours in front of the TV or Facebook). There's simply not time for church anymore. So the people working 16 hours a day in the fields who went to church every time the doors were opened, weren't busy and went to church because they had nothing else to do (read with sarcasm)? Did God not foresee that people would be busy one day when He told His people to be plugged into church?

Psalm 92:13 tells us that those who are planted in the house of the Lord will flourish. So many people are doing a lot of good things but not getting the expected results because they are not planted in the house of the Lord. They attend once in a while (when there is time). Maybe they hop from church to church following the latest "move" of God. Maybe they think they are not being fed and move to another church -- continually uprooting.

When we were building the Mesa campus, the land was a citrus grove. The city required us to keep a couple rows of citrus trees on the perimeter of the property. We had to remove some of the trees during construction. When we finished the building we had some mature trees planted to replace the ones that had to be removed. A few years later we found that the trees on the back of the property that had never been moved were producing abundant fruit. The transplants were not producing any fruit. It took another couple years before they began producing. A tree expert told us that this was completely normal. An uprooted and re-planted tree will take 3-5 years to begin producing fruit again (if it even survives).

So many people are hopping from church to church because they think it is not producing fruit in their lives. The real problem is that they are not getting PLANTED in the house of the Lord. They keep uprooting and moving again -- all the while blaming the churches for their lack of fruit.

Matthew 16:18 says that the gates of hell cannot prevail against the CHURCH -- not YOU, but the church. Being connected to God's church gives us the safety in numbers. Being a lone wolf makes you the easy prey for the enemy.

I gave this example at the close of my message yesterday...

Based on 300 million people living in the U.S. and the fact that polls say 80% call themselves Christian (but we'll go with 2/3 for easier math)...

300,000,000 Americans
200,000,000 Christians
50,000,000 Christian Households
$50,000 Average Household Income in U.S.
10% Tithe = $5000 per year, per household
$5000 X 50,000,000 = $250,000,000,000 per year

So... if all Christians were tithing to a local church, the church would have about $250 billion every year to impact and influence the world with -- without receiving any "special offerings" or fundraising programs. The church could be doing what the church is called to do -- like feeding the hungry and clothing the poor instead of needing the government to do it (very poorly and inefficiently at that). So, God knew what He was doing when He wanted us all in church and tithing :)

Next Sunday, when we reflect upon Independence Day and the American Revolution we will examine the place of the church in the fiber of this nation and how it is the strong church that will restore the parts of the fiber that are wearing a bit thin these days. As the church has allowed itself to become marginalized it has also lost its ability to influence the direction of this nation.

See you next week!