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Unit 5 - Why The Church?



DISCIPLE ESSENTIALS

What in the World is the Church?

DAY 1

Have you ever thought about why people “go to church?” 

What is the purpose for everyone coming together and meeting in one place every weekend?   If God is with me everywhere I am, why go to church?   Or maybe you've wondered why churches are so different, from Bach to rock?  (And what's up with snake handling?)

“The gospel booklet said that now I have trusted Christ as my Savior, I should join a local church.  So as a teenager I joined the closest one.  They were very friendly, but after a few months it dawned on me they never really talked about Jesus like He was alive.  In fact, they rarely talked about Him at all.  I figured that was normal.  What did I know?  But in that tiny, far from perfect church, God connected me with two school friends who I poured my life into, simply passing on what I learned and encouraging them as disciples of Jesus.   Both went into the ministry, literally leading thousands of students to the Lord over the years and discipling them. God doesn’t need perfect people or a perfect church if you just make yourself available to Him!”

Questions we will address in this unit:

  • What is the church and why does it exist?

  • What is the role of the church in my life?

We will also do some myth busting in this Unit.  In fact, here are “Top Ten” myths people have about church:

  • Myth:  The church is a building

  • Myth:  The church building is God’s house

  • Myth:  We go to church primarily to “experience God”

  • Myth:  The local church is just a human organization; it’s not the real church

  • Myth:  Church is optional

  • Myth:  Local churches are like local stores where shoppers can pick up different “goods”

  • Myth:  I can be a maturing believer without being an active part of a local church

  • Myth:  Membership is not found in the Bible

  • Myth:  I can get everything I need online these days—including church

  • Myth:  The church is just any gathering of a few believers

An eleventh one is, “There is a perfect church somewhere, and one day I’ll find it.”  This is an easy one to answer.  There is no perfect church because there are no perfect people or pastors.  One person quipped, “If you do find the perfect church don’t join it.  You’ll ruin it.”

The truth is, if the answer to “Why go to Church?” were just to “experience God” then we really wouldn’t have to go to church.  

We could experience God sitting by a beautiful lake, or as Nathaniel did, sitting under a tree (John 1:48).

Likewise, if it were just to get Bible teaching, we could stay home and watch online.   We could give online and find great worship songs to sing along with for free.  Social media allows us to keep up with our friends.  Now we don’t have to actually see acquaintances to know how their vacation went.  We already “liked” it.   And if they posted a need we already responded with a prayer emoji.  Check, check!

  • So if all this is true, what reasons can you give for physically going to church faithfully?

 


DAY 2

TEACHING/STUDY

Ironically, it was for a personal relationship with God that many of us stepped into a church building in the first place.  However, being a disciple is more than just our own personal relationship to Him.  God has called us to be in relationship other believers as well. 

When you became a believer you weren’t just placed “in Christ.”  You were also adopted into God’s family and connected with all other believers as your brothers and sisters:

“For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!”  (Romans 8:15 HCSB)

  • What advantages would an adopted family member have over a slave who lived in the same house?

 

Four times in the New Testament God says as believers we have all been adopted into His family.  Get this: unlike your earthly family, your spiritual family will go on forever and ever!

So it is important to start learning to love them now, warts and all. 

And it's a command:  Christ calls us to love one-another build each other up in our faith and work together as His Body--His hands and feet--to make disciples of all the nations. (Ephesians 4:16). 

There are no Lone Ranger believers!  And even he had Tonto.  And Silver.

Some Assembly Required.

The New Testament word for church (ekklesia) literally means “called out” to assemble.   God is calling us out from our homes (and from the culture we live in) to assemble with other believers. 

The confusion about what the church is or why the church should meet starts when we think of the church as a place or a building. 

The church is not the building where people meet.  The church is the people.  It is the gathering of those who have a relationship with God through Christ.   In fact, many churches around the world don’t even have a building!

But why assemble?  What has God got in store for us together that God that we cannot find or accomplish alone?

1. Together - We show that we are genuine disciples

Jesus said the proof that we were genuinely His disciples isn’t our bumper stickers, our buildings, or even talking about our faith.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35, emphasis added)

  • From this verse, what specifically is the identifying mark of a genuine disciple?

 

One-another means fellow believers.  Other Christians.  Only together can we fulfill this command.  The world is desperately “searching for love in all the wrong places.”  Jesus says they will find the genuine item among us if we love another as the church!  But this is easier said than done at times.

Real maturity plays out in relationships. 

It is easy in isolation to theoretically love our brothers and sisters in Christ. Theoretical people aren’t able to annoy us, have a different opinion, or inconvenience us with a need. They don’t exist!  However, God calls us to love real people. 

Love is not passive.  John wrote about our fellow believers:

If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?  Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.  (1 John 3:17-18)

In fact, God says we can’t really love Him if we don’t love other believers too:

“No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us...the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:12, 20)

  • Why is it impossible to love God without loving our fellow believers?

 


DAY 3

2. Together - We build each other up as the body of Christ

A second reason we assemble with our local church is to encourage and strengthen each other in our faith and ministry. 

Paul compares the local church to the human body, or more specifically, the body of Christ:

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up….

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.   (Ephesians 4:11-12, 16)

  • From this passage, what is the outcome when “each part does it’s work?"

 

  • What is the role of pastors, teachers and the other church leaders?

 

  • Who is doing the “works of service,” and for what intended results?

 

God has an assignment for you within His church that fits who He made you to be. 

In the New Testament church every member had a ministry, just like every part in your body plays an important role. 

In fact the word “member” simply means a part of the body (see Romans 12:4-5).  Far from being a human invention, the local church is God’s plan. 

Whether your name is in a church roster or not, what makes you a member in the biblical sense is that you are intentionally connected and doing your part.

Imagine if your liver said, “I don’t think I really need to be part of a local body,” and decided to go out on its own.  Gross!  It’s just plain creepy to see a body part, any body part, not connected to a body!   The whole body would suffer and the liver couldn’t do it’s thing without the other parts working together. 

 

3. Together - We fulfill the “one-another” commands

There are over thirty different “one another” commands in the New Testament directed toward the church, and not a single one of these commands can be done solo!  Here are a few:

  • love one another (John 13:35)

  • forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32)

  • accept one another (Romans 15:7)

  • submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21)

  • pray for one another (James 5:16)

  • encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

  • bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)

  • be kind to one another (Ephesians 4:32)

  • teach one another (Colossians 3:16)

  • serve one another (Galatians 5:13)

Practicing these one another’s is what the Bible means by fellowship (No, it’s not refreshments).  It’s connecting intentionally in community with other believers.

Why so many one another’s?  Because we’re a team. 

No one gets to the top of Mt Everest without a large support team.  Nor can we climb the mountains in our lives alone.  We need each other! 

God has purposely designed it that way so that we go from self-centered consumers to “all in” disciples, deeply involved in the lives of a local congregation. 

The writer of Ecclesiastes wisely observed,

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:  If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up….A cord of three strands is not quickly broken  (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12).

One is the loneliest number.  And while two are great, three is even better!

  • Who do you have at church that you regularly practice the “one anothers” with?

 

  • If we hop from church to church as “consumers,” going here for this program, and there for that program, what are we in danger of missing?

 


DAY 4

4. Together - We serve using our unique gifts

The body of Christ needs you.  You are God’s handiwork (Ephesians 2:10) and He will use your unique heart, ability, and experiences (some good, some tough) to join with others and accomplish His will through the church, to make disciples of all the nations. 

In Christ's body we all play unique but important roles:

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts…

If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;

 if it is serving, then serve;

if it is teaching, then teach;

if it is to encourage, then give encouragement;

if it is giving, then give generously;

if it is to lead,  do it diligently;

if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.   (Romans 12:4-9, NIV)

  • Who do we “belong to” according to this passage?  

 

  • How does it change your understanding of the phrase, belonging to a church?

 

  • Do you identify with one of these seven gifts above more than others?

 

  • No gifts are said to be more valuable than others.  What can you conclude from that?

 

Spiritual Gifts

Spiritual gifts are God-given abilities for ministry

This isn’t an exhaustive list in Romans 12.  Paul’s point here is that we don’t all have the same gifts and abilities, but that what God has given us is needed by the body and will be missed if we aren’t present.

God can use all of you:  your gifts, your heart, your abilities, your talents, your experiences, your resources, your relationship and more. 

But people often ask, “That sounds great but how do I know what my spiritual gifts are?”  The truth is you won’t know until you jump in and start trying to serve in different ways.

Inventories and spiritual gift tests tend to narrowly define these gifts that the Bible never defines, and they are usually based on experience.  But if you haven’t started serving, you don’t have any experience.  So, get some by following the next point.

How do I start?  

The best way is to just start by jumping in and trying something. 

Over time you, and others, will begin to recognize where your gifts, ability, and heart are.  Try several things until you begin to see a fit.  Then develop and grow your ability so your capacity to build up the body of Christ grows. 

Here are some suggestions to get started:

  • What are you passionate about?  Is there a ministry area at your church that interests you?  Or maybe there is a need that the church leadership has highlighted and you think you could help meet.  Are there any areas you feel God may be prompting you to investigate? Those are good clues as to where to start.  The only way to know is to take the initiative to serve selflessly by volunteering. 

 

  • Then find a role in that ministry that fits who you are.  Some of you were born to organize.  Others like to go with the flow and just help where needed.  Most ministry areas can use both types of people, and the following types:  Some of you are strong mercy people and others of you are better at accomplishing a task, and so on.  None of these are right or wrong.  It’s who God made you to be. 

A word of caution: there will be times in every church where we simply need to roll up our sleeves and serve in areas that are outside of our “comfort zone.”  Sometimes it is because that is where help is needed, in others, it can be the door to where God is leading us! 

(For more information on spiritual gifts, see the FAQ at the end of this Unit.)

 


DAY 5

5. Together - We bring glory to God

Have you ever wondered why God came up with the church in the first place? 

We can be pretty difficult to work with.  Why not use angels to preach the gospel?  That would be impressive!  But the church serves an even greater purpose. 

Together we can do something that all of God’s angels cannot: 

God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 3:10 NLT)

The word translated “rich variety” is literally many-colored, or as one translation puts it, multi-faceted (HCSB version) like a jewel.  God’s wisdom is displayed in infinite variety through the life of the church.  

Your story is one facet, one side of the multi-faceted wisdom of God displayed through the church, and angels are tuning in to binge watch! 

You may be thinking, “Who, me?  I’ve got a long way to go!”  Perhaps, but it’s the last minute comeback that makes the highlight reel.  

And these “rulers and authorities” includes Satan and his demonic hordes as well.  Over and over they sit on the losing bench, watching what looked like our certain defeat turned to victory by God’s grace in Christ.  Not just once, but over and over as we continue to go from “grace to grace.”  It’s got to drive them crazy.  How could such losers win?  

Paul explained we are “jars of clay” containing a precious treasure:

Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)

  • From this verse, why would God use such imperfect “vessels” as us?  How is that a good thing?

 

  • Look up the context (the verses before and after v. 7). What is the treasure?

 

The church is God’s vehicle for making His wisdom known to the entire universe.  It is central to His eternal purpose.  As His children, we have the privilege to be a part! 

All this time maybe we thought the church was all about us—meeting our needs; ensuring we like the music and the preacher.

Paul turns that perspective on its head and says it is about making known God’s wisdom and bringing Him glory.

  • So how will you think differently about the church going forward? List at least five ways your thinking has been expanded.

 

Peter gives another picture of how together we bring God glory:

You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”  (1 Peter 2:5)

  • Let’s unpack Peter’s analogy.  Who are the living stones and what is God making with them?

 

  • Who are the “priests,” a special group, or all believers?

 

  • What are these priest’s duty in this passage?

 

  • How does Romans 12:1 help you understand that duty?

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship (NASB).

  • How does this change your understanding of what “worship” is? (music, or something else?)

 

6. Together - Represent Christ to the world

So what are we to accomplish as the church?  Peter, in the same passage, answers that question:

But you are the chosen race, the King's priests, the holy nation, God's own people, chosen to proclaim the wonderful acts of God, who called you out of darkness into his own marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9, GNT)

  • What phrase tells you our purpose as the church on earth?

 

  • What are some of the “wonderful acts” of God we should proclaim?

 

Evangelism is the outgrowth of all the “togethers” we have looked at. 

God’s plan is that the church, working together, takes the gospel to the ends of the earth and makes disciples of all nations.  Individually and collectively our responsibility is to give repeated opportunities to those around us to see, hear, and respond to the gospel. 

In the next Unit, we will look at specific way you can personally share your faith and be part of fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).

 

Your Spiritual Growth Plan

We grow by taking a Next Step!

Choose one of the areas below and then either a “walk,” “jog,” or “run” step.  

The walk steps are beginning or shot term steps, the jog steps intermediate, and the run steps more challenging.

If you are still working on steps from a previous week, don’t feel pressured to do any of these!  Or choose a “walk” step for now.  Perhaps mark one of these for future action if that’s the case.

1. CONNECTING INTENTIONALLY TO OTHERS IN MY CHURCH

WALK

Attend a small group weekly.

JOG

Invite others to your small group.

RUN

Lead a small group weekly.


2. SERVE SELFLESSLY

WALK

Volunteer at your church on a one-time or short term opportunity.

JOG

Commit to serve in some kind of on-going ministry.

RUN

Lead a ministry team or small group.


3. USING PAINFUL PAST EXPERIENCES AS OPPORTUNITIES TO HELP OTHERS

WALK

Write out how Christ has healed or used a painful experience in your life for God’s glory.

JOG

Share with a friend or your small group how Christ has healed or used this painful experience for God’s glory.

RUN

Share this painful experience with a pastor to see if you can use it to help others in your church.


4. GIVING GENEROUSLY

WALK

Begin percentage priority giving. Pick a percentage to start with and let it grow over time as your faith grows.

JOG

Give the first 10% of your income to your church on a regular basis.

RUN

Give from your abundance above the first 10%.

 


Parent Next Steps

Choose one or more of  the Action Steps below based on the ages of your children.

PRESCHOOL

Discuss the following “one another” commands from the Bible with your preschooler.

·   Pray for one another (James 5:16)

Say: “Who would you like to pray for today/tonight? Why do they need prayer?”

·   Encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Say: “Do you know someone who needs help or could use some cheering up? What could we do to make them smile?”

·   Be kind to one another (Ephesians 4:32)

Say: “Is there someone you need to practice being kind to? How could you treat them with kindness?”

ELEMENTARY

Discuss the following “one another” commands from the Bible with your child.

·   Pray for one another (James 5:16)

Say: “Who would you like to pray for today/tonight? Why do they need prayer?”

·   Serve one another (Galatians 5:13)

Say: “Do you know someone who is having a tough time or needs help? What could we do to make them smile?”

·   Be kind to one another (Ephesians 4:32)

Say: “Is there someone you need to practice being kind to? Is there someone you think I need to practice being kind to? How could we treat them with kindness?”

·   Forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32)

Say: “Is there someone that you need to forgive? Is there someone you think I need to forgive? Let’s pray about that right now.”

STUDENTS

Challenge your student in one or all of the following:

·   CONNECT: Maturity plays out in relationships-Attend a small group or student ministry weekly

·   SERVE: Being a member of the Body of Christ means you are intentionally connected and doing your part-Commit to serve in an on-going ministry

·   GIVE: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” -Matthew 6:21 Tithe from their allowance, babysitting money, jobs, etc.

Key Truth:  

Ephesians 3:10

God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 3:10 NLT)

 

Snap Shot Summary:

The church is not a building but the people, “called out” by God to assemble so that together we can work as the body of Christ to build up one another, glorify God, and make disciples of all nations. As such, the local church is God’s plan, not a human invention. There are over thirty one-another commands given to us as the church that we cannot do on our own.  It is not an option.  God does not live in a building, he lives in us.

 

Resources:

Building Up One Another –Gene Getz

What's So Spiritual about Your Gifts? --Henry & Mel Blackaby

The One Anothers (6 part video teaching by Tony Evans, free on RightNow.org)

Deep and Wide - Andy Stanley

The Purpose Driven Church - Rick Warren

 

FAQs and "Hard Questions"

What are spiritual gifts?

Why are there so many denominations?

I was part of a church and had a bad experience….

Why are some churches so liturgical and formal and others like a rock concert?

What is baptism, and if I was baptized as a baby do I need to be baptized again as a believer?

What you have learned in this Essentials Study we encourage you to pass along to others by taking them through this study!  You can access all the materials online free anytime, anywhere. 


5 - Unit 5 - The Church- PRINT version.pdf 5 - Unit 5 - The Church- PRINT version