Let me dispel a few common myths about the church.
1) We do not attend church; we are the church.
The Bible never refers to the church as a place, building, or location. For example, there’s a verse in Acts which says, “The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem” (Ac 11:22). I have never known a building to have ears.
When the Bible talks about the church, it speaks of believers who are born of God and united by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
2) The church does not exist to serve our felt needs.
People tend to shop for churches as though they’re buying a new car. I want one with air conditioning, comfortable seats, and a quality sound system. If the church doesn’t satisfy their every desire, then they move on to the next and maybe the next.
A few years ago, I spoke to a gentleman who raved about a new church he had joined. After a little research, I discovered that his church does not believe in the deity of Christ. When I brought this critical issue to his attention, he said, “Oh, but I feel so good after every service.”
I begged him to examine himself. I feel pretty good after eating dessert, but I wouldn’t sacrifice meat and vegetables for it. You can’t live on dessert alone, and shallow feelings, no matter how positive, aren’t worth sacrificing the truth.
3) We marry the church; we don’t date it.
In his book, Stop Dating the Church, Joshua Harris describes the uncommitted Christian in three ways.
First, he’s me-centered, always looking for he can get out of church. He has no interest in serving others. Rather, he expects the church to serve him.
Second, he’s independent, never wanting to get too involved with other people. He keeps his distance. Perhaps he tries his best to slip in and out without anyone noticing. He certainly doesn’t want to be a part of the church outside of corporate gatherings.
Third, he’s critical. He approaches the church as a consumer. If they don’t have what he wants and exactly what he wants, then he goes elsewhere. He’s always right; everyone else is always wrong.
In Ephesians, Paul makes it clear that we cannot be half-hearted, uncommitted members of the church. In Ephesians 5, he says:
Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25-27)
Christ did not give a piece of himself for the church; he gave all of himself. He served the church by sacrificing for the church. His interest in her was not shallow or fleeting. He cared enough to pursue her holiness. In other words, his priority was the church’s welfare which he proved by dying for her. Of course, God has called us to follow his example.
When you are dating someone, there is very little commitment involved. Boyfriends and girlfriends come and go. Those relationships can often be self-serving until they evolve into something more. Marriage, on the other hand, is a firm commitment. God commands us to love one another until death does us part. There isn’t room for selfishness or constant criticism.
The same is true in the church. Selfless commitment is required because God designed the church so that its members should come together as (1) citizens of the same country, (2) members of the same family, and (3) bricks of the same building.