Who Needs the Church Anyway? 11/7/99

Ephesians 4:15c-16

JESUS CHRIST is lovingly spoken of as “the head” of the church. Where there is a head there needs to be a body. The most flattering title granted the followers of Christ is “the body of Christ.”

With resolute determination Christ promised to build His church. Being a part of that process is an exciting blessing.

The church is not simply buildings. That is the church house.

The church isn’t merely a series of meetings. Those are church services.

The church is a group of people interacting in the name of Christ to meet one another’s spiritual needs, challenge each other to holy living, and bring influence on society that enhances community life by holding up the standards of morality.

Every week in the U.S. 40% of the adult population attends a house of worship.

There are more ministers in America than there are Ford and Chrysler employees combined.

If religion in America were a business, it would rank number five in the Fortune 500. Its $50 billion income would put it just behind IBM and ahead of GE.

If the volunteer hours rendered through churches were calculated, they would total over $75 billion a year.

However, the real importance of the church isn’t indicated by these facts. The basic nitty and fundamental gritty regarding the importance and impact of the church is found in the loving relations between the Head, Jesus Christ, and the body, His loving followers, and how they interrelate compassionately.

It is expressed in the comfort given in time of grief, the reassurance afforded in times of loss, the support given in hours of extenuating circumstances, the cup of cool water given on a hot day, a warm coat given to protect against the winter’s chill, a shelter on a stormy night, a hot meal, a missionary sent to a spiritually dark corner of the earth, a holy embrace for an exhausted friend, and a warm smile for a wounded colleague.

It is the gospel explained, the truth exposed to an inquiring mind, morality stimulated, and ethics inspired in the market place.

It is souls saved from an eternal hell, families bound together in love, broken lives restored, people stabilized when their dreams are broken, the sick visited, a fallen brother or sister restored, and the prayer circle activated in support of a need. That is the church.

Galatians 6:2 gives insight into a functioning body: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you can fulfill the law of Christ.”


Let’s play the devil’s advocate for a moment. What would you do if you wanted to stop Christ’s church from achieving that which pleases Him? Here is what I would do:

Under the guise of wanting to popularize Christianity, I would make it a pop church in which:
A. I would make the basis of faith something other than the Word of God. Secular psychology would be a good basic core curriculum for Sunday School classes, pulpits, and seminaries. I would provide a smorgasbord of entertainment instead of teaching people how to apply the Word to daily living.

B. I would move the focus of faith away from Jesus Christ. This fantasy-faith would be based on health, wealth, and prosperity. Thus, I would appeal to the flesh.

C. I would advocate something other than holy living as the result of faith.

D. I would cause every person to have an unpleasant experience at church. I am going to be transparent. I have had a bad experience at church and I am no different from most people. As a matter of fact I have had more than one unhappy experience at church. The first one I remember was as a teenager. Our church was in a revival. The preacher preached over 90 minutes every service. That in itself is a bad experience. Our church had posts along the side. I was sitting with friends in the area behind a post. The preacher was a screamer and had been blazing away for over an hour. As a youth I was trying hard to stay with him. I leaned forward and propped up on my hand. Evidently only half my face was visible to the preacher. My finger slipped over one eye and it was the eye he could see. Assuming I was asleep he pointed at me and said, “A lot of you are going to hell like this kid sitting over here sleeping.”

I didn’t want to go back the next night. As a matter of fact I didn’t ever want to go back to church.

Honestly, I had a bad experience at church.

I felt like the man whose wife was begging him to get up and go to church. He said, “I don’t want to go. People don’t like me. Some don’t even speak to me. They criticize me and say bad things about me. I don’t want to go.” His wife said, “But you’ve got to go, you’re the preacher.”

I am going to be transparent. I have had some bad experiences at church. Let’s be open. If you have ever had a bad experience at church would you lift your hand.

Most people have. We just have to get over it and quit punishing ourselves by staying away. If you have been inactive and you resolve to resume involvement, I guarantee you Satan is going to do everything possible he can to make your return unpleasant. He doesn’t want you involved in church. Anticipate it and recognize it as his plot. Your former unpleasant experience was his work. If your unpleasant experience has caused you to drop out or become less active that means Satan’s strategy is working.

If you resolve to resume involvement the Lord is also going to be at work to encourage and enable you to find the joy of involvement. Trust Him and try it!

Now turn with me to our text in Ephesians 4 and let’s apply it to the process in which our Lord wants you to become involved simply because it will add meaning to your life.

With Christ as the head of the body, let’s evaluate it.

This speaks of the skeleton of the body. The skeleton gives structure to a human body. Likewise, there are certain things that give structure to the church.

Verses 3 and 13 speak of the “unity.” With all of our diversity, unity is a miracle. It is only possible where there is “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Vs. 3), and “unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God” (Vs. 13).

A structure is something on which you build. The church must have unity on certain structural beliefs in order to build.
A. The Virgin birth.
B. The Virtuous life.
C. The Vicarious death.
D. The Vindicating resurrection.
E. The Valedictory ascension.
F. The Victorious return.

Everything the church is and does must be built on those structures.

The Greek text speaks of “every joint of supply.” That is, the joints of supply are the bonds that bind the members of the body together, and the channels through which the source of supply of life comes from the Head. This energy joins believers close together and enables their growth.

In reality we don’t attend church because of what we get out of it but because of what we can contribute to it.

When the word contribute or contribution is mentioned, many people think of giving money. That is merely a byproduct of giving of ourselves. If we haven’t given our self to Christ and His body, the church, we sure won’t give our money. If we aren’t giving our money, we might need a spirituality check.

Students of the new tax laws say they are likely to increase giving to charitable causes by $1.6 billion this year. It will be to your tax advantage to give more than ever to your church this year.

The Scripture says where a man’s heart is, there is his treasure. Think about it! Don’t stop there, do something about it.

However, money is only one way of giving. Your regularity in public worship is a form of giving testimony.

In another state I preached a series of services. There was a gracious lady at every service. She was hearing impaired. I like that term better than the old terms “deaf and dumb.” Incidentally, our friends visiting here from Israel recently often used words that were almost right. For instance, they referred to a person who was “deaf and numb.” I thought that sounds like some congregations I have preached to – – – in other places.

Near the end of the week it was explained to me this lady could not hear a word I had said all week. Instantly, the question came to my mind as to why she had attended. An explanation came immediately. I was told she said she always attended public worship even though she could not hear because it was a way in which she could let others know of her faith. She was contributing by being present.

That reminds me of a sign in front of a church: “We hold sit-in demonstrations every Sunday.”

Another I saw speaks of the church’s purpose: “Come in and let us help prepare you for your final exams.”

How can the church demonstrate to the lost world it has the answers to their many bewildering needs? James gives the answer in chapter 2, verse 14: “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?” Then he added, “…faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead” (Vs. 17).

He adds a challenge, “Show me your faith without your works…” It can’t be done.

If in New York City, one delightful place to visit is Rockefeller Center in the heart of Manhattan. There is a lovely plaza with a sunken garden. The place is alive with flowers and flags and in winter, skaters. One focal point is a plaque inscribed with the personal creed of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., a Baptist. It might well appear in any church.

“I believe in the supreme worth of the individual and in his right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, and obligation; every possession a duty…”

That is a commentary on the clause “every part does its share.”

The spirit of the body should be one of joy, love, and cheer. Christ said, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

What part are you supplying to the body of Christ?

The church must be big enough to provide for you and small enough to care about who you are. One role of the church is to tell the lost world God knows you and cares about you.

After World War I the American government brought four bodies of unidentified servicemen to Washington, D.C. Sgt. Edward Younger randomly selected one of the four to be buried where the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was later built. Inscribed on that tomb are these words: “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”

That grave marker notes a great truth. It indicates we are known to God. That is our message to people apart from the Lord. God doesn’t only know you, He loves you.

Notice in the text, it isn’t until the body is unified and supplied that it is multiplied.

Spiritual and numerical growth are both incorporated in this statement.

The First Century church would have been given little hope by an objective observer. Its leader was executed as a common criminal. The eleven wavering students who had followed Him for three years had only one in their rank with the equivalent of a college degree, Matthew.

At the time of Christ’s death His followers numbered less than 100. The population of the Roman Empire was about 120,000,000. The civil and religious leaders who opposed them imposed sanctions such as executions, imprisonment, and public beatings.

They grew by faithfully proclaiming a simple message of God’s love. At the Feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem, over 3,000 Greek speaking Jewish pilgrims from Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, Greece, and Rome were converted. In one day the church body had become international.

Notice how they multiplied. They started with 120. On the day of Pentecost 3,000 were saved (Acts 2). A few days later 5,000 more came to the Lord (Acts 4). A short time later 20,000 were saved (Acts 6). In one generation they numbered over 100,000 in Jerusalem alone.

They built on the framework, the skeleton. That is the only way we can grow.

The warm, sweet spirit of a Spirit-filled church is good for you in every sense. It has been demonstrated that isolated and neglected babies don’t grow properly and are more subject to disease. Apart from the loving environment of a caring fellowship, a babe in Christ does not develop properly.

We are to build up each other.

Scientific evidence now exists that proves it is advantageous to have a strong personal faith and express it by regular worship attendance. David B. Lawson, a senior government research advisor in Washington, D.C. and senior research consultant for the National Institute for Health Care Research has done research that demonstrates this.

He reviewed numerous psychiatric journals for empirical evidence to see if the facts show religion has influence on individuals. What the research showed was that religion was highly beneficial in more than 80% of the cases found in psychiatric research. He also said his study shows the exact opposite is taught in schools.

Lawson further found empirical evidence that persons with a strong faith in God who experienced a crisis were much better able to cope with it.

His research found that 19 of 20 studies he researched showed that religion appears to prevent problems. In light of our social ills and mounting costs, this is meaningful.

He also found a clinically significant difference in blood pressure levels between churchgoers and non-goers, with those who have strong faith having lower rates.

Religious faith has dramatic positive influence in lowering post-operative depression.

If you are part of an edifying church body, they will build you up in love and hold you up in prayer.

Those are mere physical side benefits to having a strong personal faith. Come let us help prepare you for your FINAL EXAMS.

Verses 11 and 12 notes our Lord has given certain gifts to build up his church. Some are preacher/teachers. (Apply Granville Sharp’s Rule) A role of the preacher/teacher is to build up the body for the work of ministry.

I want to appeal to you to identify with the only organization that has a supernatural head, Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1: 22, “He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body…”

Become a functioning part of the body.