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09 September 2014

Do I really need to go to church?

Do I really need to go to church?

by Greg Haslam

Loads of people, including many of the younger generation who have grown up in church, have 'ditched' the Church as an obsolete relic from a bygone age –outdated, irrelevant, decrepit, boring. But if we take Jesus seriously, he took 12 tough men to a place called Caesarea Philippi 'up north' in Galilee, where false-god mini-statues were displayed in rocky alcoves, and worshipped by local pagans.

Jesus then quizzed them about who they thought he really was (Matthew16:13-20), a pivotal moment in Jesus's earthly mission. After some wacky suggestions, which were all wrong, Peter blurted out: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!" Jesus not only praised him for this insight, but declared the awesome truth that he would build his Church on it. We can't love Jesus, and despise his Church. Jesus then affirmed the Church's permanent existence by adding: "And the gates of Hell will not overcome it."

The Church of Christ is eternal, indestructible, and absolutely essential for everything God has in mind for the world's future. In fact it's Jesus's plan A to save the nations, and our ageing planet. He has no plan B. But not a lot of people know that.

Coca Cola, McDonalds, Nike and Apple have gone to places where the gospel hasn't. Without the Church it never will. You and I are essential to God's plan for billions of lives.

US Pastor Bill Hybels declares: "The Church is the hope of the world." I totally agree with him. There's no other way God's great good news will ever get out, so lives can be rescued, fools can become wise, losers turn into winners, dead souls can come alive, and life can truly be worth living, without the agency of Christ's Church in every place on our planet. Which is why I passionately love Jesus's Church.

So why would anyone want to ignore it?

Well, for the embarrassing reasons I listed. All of which can be remedied by radical surgery, explosive truth, Holy Spirit empowered believers, bold actions, and faithful uncompromising leaders who'll do what Jesus tells them to do. We don't need any more wimps, sceptics, hypocrites, child molesters, or 'wimpy' clerics too scared to challenge compromise that destroy churches, in Jesus's name.

We're all called to be loyal followers of Jesus, who will follow him anywhere. When Jesus is working with us, he empowers our words, arranges miracle signs, wonders and healings, liberates 'haunted' people from demonic powers, then transforms broken lives through the holy triad of words, works and wonders. If you've never seen, or been a part of churches like that, I pity you. But they absolutely do exist.

It is absolutely vital that you not only 'go to church', but commit to it, sacrificing your life to see it succeed and grow. Here's why:

1. You need a great family –no one can live the Christian life entirely on their own. The best churches have lots of switched-on people, who laugh, talk, help, inspire, and love us. The alternative is to live like an orphan.

2. Your life needs to change –the Bible taught fearlessly, truthfully, and honestly by God's gifted preachers, in ways that shatter and repair us regularly, will also ultimately be the making of you. Abandon drivel. Get God's truth!

3. You need special people –some of whom you may not like at first. But over time, your prejudices will change, and you'll discover you can't live without them. You were never meant to.

4. You can't live only for yourself –great churches train us to 'wise up', dump selfishness, think about others, grow, and discover our spiritual gifts, so we can impact people's lives. This can't happen anywhere else. Jesus planned this.

5. You need to 'belong' –we all do. Jesus insisted that this starts with 'the normal Christian birth' (Matthew 28:16-20;Mark 16:14-20;Acts 2:38-47) –Running from sin. Faith in Jesus. Baptism to 'drown' the old you, then rising from the dead to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and 'grafted' into Jesus's Church. Only 'fools' miss out on all that.

6. You need to train for your big fight –It's the greatest fight in the world. You've signed up. You're now in the 'war zone'. You get to do some damage to Jesus's darkest enemies –simply by being real, speaking truth, sharing good news, 'praying up a storm', saying 'Yes!' to Christ's orders, and 'No' to Satan's lies. Want to become a hero? Join a church.

7. You need to make your life count –Nobody ever fully discovers God's plans for them by 'dissing' God's Church. His plan needs friends, and a lifetime to unfold. So love and serve what Christ most loves - His Church. He chose us. He 'paid on the nail' for us. He wants our lives to count for something –in time, and eternity. God's Church is where it's at.

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