I recently had a conversation with a good friend of mine. What does the church offer the world today? What does the church offer people that other organizations do not. Obviously, the simple answer is Jesus. The response to the simple answer is “do you have to go to church to learn about Jesus? Can’t you read about Jesus or learn about Jesus outside the church?” The more nuanced answer is that the church offers a chance to experience the incarnate Christ through worship and participation of a community called to be the Body of Christ. That is a mouthful!
Besides Christ, what does church offer that other organizations don’t. During the conversation, my friend and I came up with a short list. To be transparent, it was mostly my friend. Okay, it was all my friend, because she is brilliant (when you read this, don’t let that go to your head!) and I didn’t have anything to add. She said that the church offers:
- A counter-cultural message of hope over fear
- An inter-generational community, which cannot easily be found elsewhere in our society
- A place to find one’s purpose in meaningful use of one’s gifts in service to a hurting world.
- Acceptance as one who is deeply loved simply for their identity as human.
I love this list. I think it is important to realize that these are four things that the church offers the world, because these are four things that Christ offers the world. Christ offers us a message, counter to society, of hope over fear. Christ said, “let the little children come to me,” while also teaching and ministering to adults and all ages. Christ called the disciples to follow him and use their gifts in the service to the world. Finally, it is because God so loved the world that we were gifted with God’s only son, Jesus Christ.
It is also important to remember that this is part of an ongoing conversation. It is an important conversation to have. What does the church offer the world? We need to be able to answer this to say why we are part of the church or why we should invite others to be part of the church. More personal questions is how are these lived out in our congregation and what would we, personally, add to them? Finally, it is a reminder that the church is the body of Christ and, as such, we are called to do the work of Christ.
1 John 4:19 “We love because he first loved us.”