Can You Live Without the Church?
Someone once said to me, “For you people, your life revolves around the church.”
The fellow who made this observation knew a lot of Reformed people, and he was genuinely interested in the Reformed faith. He was not being critical, but he did wonder about how much energy and attention we always put on the church.
In his eyes, our life was all about church.
To an extent it’s true. For many of us, a good portion of our non-working hours each week is taken up with church-related activity, whether that is attending public worship on Sundays, or participating in Bible study and/or Catechism classes, going to consistory and committee meetings, socialising with people from our congregation, or doing some other church-related event.
Meanwhile, our children might attend schools which are closely connected to the church. And during the week we might even do most of our business and trade with church people.
We spend a lot of time ‘on’ the church, or ‘at’ the church, or in the general orbit of the church.
What is the point of all this activity? We know that it should not be about ‘doing church’ for its own sake, of course. We shouldn’t be busy maintaining and building an institution simply because it provides us with some personal or community benefit. Nor should we ‘do church’ because we’ve always done it this way.
And I sometimes wonder why my interested friend didn’t say, “For you people, your life revolves around Christ.” Wasn’t he seeing that in our community too? For isn’t that the point, and shouldn’t that be the most obvious thing about us, that we love Jesus? I wonder sometimes why that was not the thing that first occurred to him about us as a Reformed community.
For our life is in the Lord, and it is to Christ where we must constantly look in hope and trust and obedience. We ought to be determined to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Heb 12:2). We should want to grow in our delight for the Saviour. It should be evident to anyone who knows us that we love the Lord Jesus and we want to walk in his ways.
Even so, we affirm that Jesus Christ is pleased to use his church as the essential means for nourishing and guiding our life of faith in him.
Christ places us in a church where we can be blessed through the preaching of his Word, the sacraments, and Christian discipline.
Christ uses his church to spread his gospel to our nonbelieving neighbours and to the nations.
It is through the community of the church that we receive necessary help from our fellow believers in Christ, as we learn together, pray together, serve together, teach and exhort each other, and admonish one another.
Scripture even teaches us to confess that there is no salvation outside of the assembly of his believers.
It is Christ’s will that his church grows, becomes unified in his truth, and lives as his faithful bride on earth—so that the church may be the place where the Lord Jesus is glorified above all.
May our lives always centre on Christ and be sustained through his church.