Have you ever had an experience where you came to a strange place and felt like you knew no one? Then, you see a friend or a relative and all of a sudden, you feel much more comfortable. That’s community. It gives us support. When a husband or wife works hard all day and knows that they can come home to one another, it makes it easier to do everything.
When we realize the importance of community, it’s easier for us to find an answer to the question “why church?” The church is a community of people who trust in Jesus to bring them hope and forgiveness and to lead them in their lives. In doing so, there are many trials and difficulties. The church is that home base of support that enables us to encourage one another and know that we’re not alone in seeking to serve Jesus. In his letter to the Roman Christians, the missionary Paul wrote, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves” (Rom. 15:1). The community of Jesus should be a support.
Sometimes, though, we forget that the community consists of a variety of people at different levels. We should not look down on one another, but we should encourage one another. Paul went on to say, “Accept him whose faith is weak . . . let us stop passing judgment on one another . . . Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Rom. 14:1, 13, 19).
Even though the community exists for support, we should also remember that it exists for a higher purpose than any one individual. It exists first and foremost to glorify God. Paul’s prayer was that they would be unified “so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” They were to do this not only by praising God but also be the love they shared with one another. “Accept one another, the, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Rom. 15:6–7). Our goal is not ourselves but to bring God praise and glory. We need to help one another see that life is not about us but about God. We all tend to think we are the star of the show, but it is really God’s show.
When we enjoy this community, our tendency can easily be to think that this is a community merely for us, for those already there. But God’s vision is for the community to get bigger. From the beginning of the Bible to the end, it’s clear that God has a worldwide vision for His community. After all, “God so loved the world . . .” Jesus came not merely to rule over one small group of people but to provide leadership for the entire world and to give them hope (Rom. 15:12).
The trouble is that the church often gets comfortable with its own little group. This happened right at the beginning of the establishment of this worldwide community. The first Christian leaders who were Jews stayed in Jerusalem, even though Jesus told them to go out into the whole world. God had to give them a kick in the pants to get them going. As a result, God permitted persecution to rise against them so that they would be scattered. When they were scattered, they shared the good news of what Jesus had done with everybody. The church expanded all over the Roman Empire because of this.
We don’t need to wait for persecution, though, to get Christ’s vision for a worldwide community. We can start now. We just need to begin to think of those outside as well as those inside. We can invest our lives in our relatives, our neighbors, and our communities and then share the good news of what Jesus has done with them or just invite them to come to our community gatherings. We can make clear to them that God wants them to be a part of His worldwide community and enjoy the love, care, and support that it has to offer them.
We believe in church because we believe in Jesus. Jesus died and rose again to found a community for Himself. He received us, and so we should receive others. He had God’s glory in view in this community, and so should we. He has a worldwide vision for His community, and that should be our vision. Building this community is not just about us trying harder. It’s about keeping Christ’s work and vision constantly before our eyes. Jesus will draw people to Himself. We just set Him before people by our words and the love we show to others. Jesus said, “I will build my church.” At the same time, we should seek to align our actions with Jesus’ agenda. When we do, it will be much easier for people to answer the question “why church?”
Listen to Pastor Wes’ sermon series on this topic here.