In the coming weeks in worship, I will be exploring the question of “why church?” Why did Jesus leave us this vehicle that seems so imperfect at times? Some of you may wonder why even ask this question. The Church has always been there for you and you see the values of it plainly.
Unfortunately, this is not the case for many these days; church attendance in the United States overall has been in decline for many years. While there are examples of growing and thriving churches, their gains have been more than offset by the decline of the vast majority of Christian congregations. Society’s support for the church is also on the wane, the courts, the media, and the schools no longer encourage the activity of the church they way they once did. Left wing extremists blame the church for all the world’s problems even as its influence and power declines. Some libertarians and extreme individualists argue that one doesn’t need a church at,all that matters is your individual choice. Harold Camping and his so-called “Family Radio” says that every church is apostate (working against God) and that all you need to be saved is individual Bible study. The Church seems to be under attack from all directions.
But as I heard while I visited another local church while on vacation this past Sunday, the Bible teaches that the Church is Jesus’ plan A, there is no plan B. The sad fact is that the attacks on the Church and its own acts of self-destruction over the years have left many confused about what he Church really is and why they should bother. Many are drifting off into false paths happiness and meaning, which only lead to further deterioration of individual lives and the health of our society. What is the greatest tragedy is that these people are the ones who may benefit from Jesus’ gift of the Church the most.
Reconnect with Your Faith
I recently completed reading a fascinating book by Dan Buettner called Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way. As part of a research project for the National Geographic Society, he examined what factors lead people to report high levels of happiness in surveys. When comes to conclusions about what a typical person can do to help promote happiness in his or her life, he writes the following:
“Just about every study done on the connection between religion and well-being shows that the two go hand in hand. While we’re not sure if churchgoing makes you happy or if happy people tend to be religious, research shows that people who belong to a faith-based community—regardless of the particular faith—and attend at least four times per month may live as much as 14 years longer than people who don’t. Churchgoers are less likely to engage in risky behaviors (which can lead to profound unhappiness), are satisfied with less money, have less stress, and—to the point of this section—have built-in social networks. You’ll amplify benefits if you join thechurch choir, volunteer as a greeter, or commit to read for the congregation. If you don’t belong to a church or have drifted away from the church of your birth, seek out a new church that matches your current values and worldview.”
The Abundant Life
Jesus told us in John 10:10 “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” The Church is part of God’s plan to bring this about. The good news is that this plan still works. Never get blinded by numbers. Remember Jesus started out with 12 disciples. The book of Acts tells us in its first chapter that at the time of Jesus’ ascension the church only had 120 people. And while the Church is in numerical decline in the United States it is growing exponentially in Africa and Asia. The question for you is whether you want to come aboard for the abundant life or not. Does the Church need you, yes! However, never forget that you need the Church.
I invite you to rededicate yourself to Jesus, or come to him for the first time and become part of the Church, which is nothing less than God’s strategy to fulfill His plan for you and our world. Come to Holy Cross this May and June and learn why God answers the question of why Church, with a resounding yes!
Keep the Faith,