The leader of a men’s Bible study group asked us a question: When the book that we were studying talked about the benefits of the church to us as individuals, his question was (in my paraphrase), “What does the church do for the rest of the world?”
The premise is from John 14:12 (see below), and while being part of the church (i.e., a group of believers who follow Jesus) has great benefits to us as individuals, I believe that there is more to this than just some perks for us.
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.
John 14:12 NASB
Some might ask why God doesn’t intervene directly, rather than expecting His followers to become engaged in the process. That’s a different discussion (albeit one worth having), for another time. Still, since God has placed His church on earth, what reason – other than obedience (not that this isn’t enough) – is there for being a part of?
By the way, I’m not talking about some static, surface type of “membership”, where we sign up on a church roll or become an “official” member in name only. By “part of a church”, I’m referring to being actively involved in the well-being of a group of Christians, as well as other people that God has placed around you in your life. This includes 1) having other Christians in the group support and minister to you, 2) supporting and ministering to them (not out of reciprocity, but rather seeking their well-being), and 3) providing those same blessings to those who are not part of your church (whether these people are followers of Jesus, or not).
Here’s some of what we came up with, as to benefits of the church to others (beyond us personally). This was based upon our own experience and learning, as well as some word-searching in the Bible:
Benefits to others in the church, itself:
- Serving as the body of Christ (see Ephesians 1:22-23)
- Sharing good things, and struggles (Acts 2:43-47; Ephesians 4:28; Philippians 4:14-16; I Timothy 6:18-19); maybe even sharing in suffering (see James 5:14-15; Colossians 1:24)
- Providing a place of growth (see Ephesians 4:14-16)
- Functioning as a family or household (see Galatians 6:10)
- Helping get others ready for service (Ephesians 4:11-16)
Benefits to those outside of the church:
- Spreading the message of Christ to the world (see Acts 1:8; 6:7; 15:3)
- Supporting those who need our help (see James 1:27; Acts 6:1-2)
- Providing support and sharing for those who rejoice or weep (see Romans 12:15; 15:26-27; 2 Corinthians 1:6-7)
- A defense against evil (see Matthew 16:18) – spiritually, and often physically
- Glorifying God (see Ephesians 3:20-21)
- Serving as an example for other relationships (see Ephesians 5:22-33)
Each of us has our part to play in this (see 1 Corinthians 12). We don’t have to be the same, and we don’t have to each do everything. We just have to do our part.
If you don’t see anything like this happening in your life, or around you, please don’t take this as any judgment on my part. Instead, I hope that you will see it as an opportunity, both for yourself, and to invite others to join you. Let us challenge ourselves to live out the Christian walk as part of something larger than ourselves, and bring others into that walk with us.