The Church as a Necessity
Read Hebrews 10:19-25
“Not forsaking our own assembling together.”
What is the church?
The impact of Covid-19 has been far-reaching and life-altering. It has brought fundamental changes in almost every facet of life. There is hardly an area of our life and society that has not been affected. The same is true of the church. It has not only brought changes in terms of how we conduct the church, but it has also affected how we view the church. The church has become virtual as people have joined online both out of concern for the health risks associated with a large gathering and the convenience of watching the service from home. So not only has it affected how we attend the church, but it has also influenced how we view the church.
However, this reassessment of the church has not been all bad, for it brought to the focus several questions, “What does it mean to be a part of the church? Is the church a building where we attend or a community we in which participate? Is the church an event that happens on Sunday in a building?” This week, in our devotionals, we want to explore the question, “What is God’s intent for the church as revealed in his word?”
The answer to this question begins with the necessity and importance of the church as central to God’s redemptive program. In the book of Hebrews, the writer contrasts the old way of living under the Mosaic law and the new way of life that Christ brought to us through His redemptive work. Christ did not just come to save us from the clutches of sin and hell; He came to bring a whole new way of living encompassing every aspect of our life. This includes a new community. In the Old Testament, the focus was upon the nation of Israel, and the Mosaic covenant outlined what it meant to be a part of a nation where one could only approach God through the intermediary of a priest. But now we are all priests and have free access to the living God (vs. 21, see also Hebrews 4:14-16).
Furthermore, we are brought into a new community, the church. We are brought into a family where there is to be mutual care and concern for one another. But this brings us to the heart of Christ's purpose for us. Christ saved us from sin to integrate us into the church to mutually encourage and serve one another.
First, this implies presence. The writer warns that we cannot be an engaging community in absentia. The first step in being the church is complete engagement and involvement. While the virtual church was necessitated for a time by Covid-19, it is not to be the pattern for the future. Watching a service on a screen is passive and one-sided. God calls us into a community of connection and encouragement. It is to be face-to-face, person to person, life to life, sharing in a mutual journey where we support and strengthen one another. It is not about attendance but involvement.
Second, it implies commitment. To be integrated into the church involves dedication and loyalty. In an age of distractions, it is easy to find other activities to control our time and attention. It takes effort to remain a part of the church fellowship. This becomes even more important “as you see the Day drawing near.” The “day” that the author refers to is the coming of Christ, which is preceded by an increase of lawlessness and spiritual deception (Matthew 24:15-24). God set us within the context of a community to protect us from what is false.
As our country moves beyond Covid-19, we cannot move beyond the church; instead, we must move back to the church. We must reaffirm its priority in our life.