What goes through the minds of our neighbors when we invite them to church? Some probably imagine enduring an hour of puzzling religious ceremonies while sitting stiffly among strangers. Who would want to do that? When my wife and I invited our Muslim neighbors to church and they accepted our invitation, we needed to prepare them for the experience. They didn’t know what to expect because they had never attended a Christian gathering before.
If you are a regular church attender, what do you expect from the experience? Do you go as a detached spectator or as an engaged participant? With a critical spirit or an attitude of openness? Do you show up to build up the body? Do you consider the church a glorious thing?
Years ago J. B. Phillips wrote a book called Your God Is Too Small.
Perhaps our view of the church is too small as well. Whether it’s a crowd of 10,000 in a huge arena or 10 believers in someone’s home, whether it’s a tiny group of persecuted believers meeting behind closed doors or a throng packed into a cathedral, the church for which Jesus died is more glorious than we imagine. When you crawl out of bed and head for church on Sunday morning, you may think you’re going to see your friends and hear the preacher give a sermon. Those are laudable goals, but the Lord has loftier things in mind.
You Can’t Eliminate the Middleman
Ask the writer of Hebrews, “What does it mean to come to church?” and he gives a faith-stretching answer. “You have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Hebrews 12:22). Its mailing address and meeting place may be on Main Street in your town, but your congregation is actually a branch office of the kingdom of the living God headquartered in Heaven.
“You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly” (v. 22). Now that is a mega-church! Don’t be discouraged when attendance is down. Thousands of unseen visitors are worshiping the Lord alongside you.
You have come “to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all” (v. 23). Divine judgment is a serious reality, but it’s reassuring when the Clerk of Heaven’s Supreme Court has recorded your name in the family album.
How can this be? How can imperfect people like us join with “the spirits of the righteous made perfect” (v. 23)? It’s only possible because of “Jesus the mediator of a new covenant” (v. 24). He is the bridge between Heaven and earth, the go-between who brings God’s straying sons and daughters back home again. At its core, that’s what the church is about.
Economists use the term disintermediation to describe removing intermediaries in the supply chain—“cutting out the middleman”—reducing costs by eliminating the broker or distributor and buying directly from the supplier. But in our relationship with God no one can eliminate the middleman. “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). We don’t just come to church; we are the church—redeemed sinners joining together to worship and serve in the glorious name of our mediator, Jesus Christ.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2013, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.