The old hand exercise - "Here is the Church, here is the steeple, open the doors and see all the people," is cute, but it poorly describes Christ's Church. Church is not the building. The people do not congregate within the Church. Believers are the Church.
"Church" is described in Scripture as anything but a stationary meeting hall. The Church is alive with the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within. Church is God's powerful change agent in the world. It is called an army, a body, a flock and a family. The Church is to be the salt and the light to the world. It is made up of the "called-out ones." It is the herald of God's Good News. It is the community of believers.
It has been said that we may be the only "Jesus" many people may ever see. As such, we are reminded that as Church, we model Christ to a watching world.
Church is many different things to the diversity of people within this world. That speaks highly to how wonderfully Church meets the needs of people. The purpose of Church is to be there for people - to be encouragers, to be a help, to be proclaimers of the Good News, and to be a moral compass of truth.
After having said all this, my image of Church has been as a "lifeline." Church has been my lifeline to Christ. I do not know where my spiritual walk would be without the care and support of my Church family. The "lifeline" helped pull me up out of my past life to see my need for a Savior. They understood that I needed Christ in my life. They worked hard at providing numerous special programs in order to invite my family to attend. And, once we began attending weekly services, they knew I needed to make a commitment to Christ.
Many hours were spent preparing Sunday school lessons intended to introduce Jesus to me. I could see the preacher's great love for God and congregation as he spoke about an even greater love that brought Christ to the Cross, all for my sake.
My Church family continues to encourage me after having given my life to Christ. They challenged me to grow from being a "milk only" Christian to deepen my faith that I may digest the meatier concepts of God's Word. On occasion, the counsel of a brother in Christ became the "lifeline" that pulled me away from wrong turns in my life. I did not always appreciate that counsel, but I have come to realize the deep love for me which compelled him to speak loving words of correction.
Church has been my "lifeline" to life eternal in Christ. My life is blessed because of my Church family. It saddens me when some one defiantly argues that they do not need to go to church to believe in God. I am sorry for them that they have not felt the joy, as I have, of being connected with a "lifeline." And, it puzzles me as to how people can get through their week, or for that matter their life, without holding fast to the blessing of Christ's "lifeline," His Church.
The Rev. Steve Lyons is pastor of First Christian Church, 518 S. Main St. in Milton-Freewater. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.