Is church really an essential service for society? In order to answer that question, we must first examine what ‘church’ is according to the Bible. There has been a lot of talk recently about how church is the people, not the building ... which is very true ... but what does that really mean and look like? Acts describes local churches as groups of people in a certain city. This may have included house churches and larger gatherings, like at a synagogue.
Essential for Healing
The church is not a museum for God’s people, but a hospital for the spiritually sick. Gathering together is a necessity, not something you do in your spare time or when it is convenient because we need each other. Jesus told His followers “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12-13) All Christians have something to give, which is your testimony of how God is working in your life, that can benefit other people and draw them closer to our Father God for healing. This healing is attained physically by acts of compassion, spiritually by confession and repentance, and emotionally by commitment to service for each other.
Essential for Belonging
The church is not something you go to, but a family you belong to. To be a Christian is be adopted into the family of God, so we must act like a family and care for each other. This is the expression of what Christ has made you. Paul reminds the Ephesian believers that “You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” (Ephesians 2:19-21) Unity, generosity, devotion and growth does not happen in isolation, but rather in the family setting. We were created for relationships; everyone seeks to belong.
Essential for Growth
The church is not an event for entertainment, but a school to prepare for life’s challenges. Jesus never bored people with the gospel, yet all He said pointed to the Truth. The main command given to all believers by Jesus Christ was to make disciples. Jesus instructs us, via the first generation of disciples, to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that [He] commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) Paul also reminded his protege Timothy to “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” (1 Timothy 4:13) A Christian must be constantly growing, and that must take place in the discipleship relationships that starts in the meeting of believers, which is church.
Essential for Battle
The church is not a social club, but an army set to defeat the enemy! It is our call of duty to stand together in the spiritual battle that is raging, knowing that the end victory is God’s. We are all in a battle for our souls, against the desires of the flesh, and against distractions from our mission. We need each other to work as a team, preparing together, fighting together and strengthening together. For, as Paul says to the church of Ephesus, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against ... spiritual hosts of wickedness.” (Ephesians 6:12) Battles are never won by individuals, but by many warriors equipped with the appropriate armour and engaged in the battle in the appropriate way. We are an ARMY: Advancing the gospel, Relating with people, Maturing believers, Yielding to Christ and each other. “You then ... be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:1-2)
I am not insisting on the church as an essential service that we demand rights from the governments, but rather that we may behave like an essential service, realizing who we are according to God. Let us fulfill our responsibility rather than fighting for rights. Remember that your reward in eternity is greater than any benefit in the short term