Is church optional, essential or unnecessary? How do you answer that question? What’s your instinctive reaction?
There are lots of things that might influence your response. If we think of church as an event, or as entertainment, or something you consume. Or if we’ve been shaped by society and prize our independence and individuality, or fear commitment. Or if we’ve been hurt by church or church leaders in the past. All those factors will shape our answer to that question.
There has been a marked rise in the churchless Christian over the last few years. People who claim to follow Jesus but don’t belong to any church. And some suggest that that will increase, that as many as 1 in 5 people who attended church before the pandemic won’t return after it, having found it was just a habit, or a family tradition, or that online church is easier, after all you can do church in your pyjamas.
But what does the Bible say about that? Is church optional, essential, or unnecessary for disciples?
We’re going to explore Ephesians 2 as we ask that question. As we do let’s get some context. As Paul writes to the church in Ephesus he’s lifting their eyes from the mundane ordinariness of church and fixing their eyes on the extraordinary work of God in the church. So in 1v10 he reminds them of where God’s plan, where history is headed, “to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”
God has chosen them and called them together as a church to be part of his plan to bring everything together under Christ’s rule. God’s big picture, his plan, is all of creation united together under Jesus for eternity. It’s not redeemed individuals or family groups following Jesus in isolation. The church (3v10)is God’s masterpiece declaring his purposes now. People redeemed by Christ together as a new community, a new family living for God’s glory united by the gospel, giving people a glimpse of God’s coming kingdom united under Christ.
But how? What does that look like? Because let’s be honest that’s hard. Church isn’t always easy. Why should we commit to this? Is it optional, essential or unnecessary?
That’s what we’re going to explore in the coming series of posts.