Why do people stop going to church? Could it be because so may churches are not really churches? Matthew 18:20 does not speak about Christians gathering for worship. It is a continuation of the passage beginning at verse 15 and speaks of the testimony of two or three witnesses in discipling a wayward brother. A big problem today is the notion of a church as a loose association rather than a brotherhood of disciples.
Jesus said: “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). What rock? Paul gives the answer: “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11); “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20).
What does it mean to be built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ? Is it enough to have prayed the sinner’s prayer at some moment in one’s life? Is it enough to give a testimony once in a while? Go on a short term missionary trip? Will tithing help?
“Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” Do we ever wonder whether we are honest in the way we answer that question?
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” How do we know if we are doing the will of the Father? “ I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.”
A church that is not squarely and solely built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ and which is not guided by the Holy Spirit in teaching and practising all the counsel of the Father, is a church that leaves people feeling restless, unfulfilled, and unsatisfied.
A church that takes people into membership based on a self-authenticated testimony of being a child of God will be a church that cannot help its members grow in their Christian life. They try many substitutes to make people feel enthused and involved, but eventually the enthusiasm fades and the involvement becomes burdensome.
The church that Jesus is building will try to make everyone who enters her doors feel welcome, but will carefully examine those who apply for membership to see that they are truly born again, Holy Spirit-led children of God. The apostle Paul describes this church as a body, with Christ as the head and the whole body functioning in obedience to the head and with love for one another.
“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:13-16).
This church will be known by the love among her members, the faithful preaching and teaching of the whole gospel and by her ability to discern and discipline sin in the membership. This last part is not very fashionable today, yet there are many who testify of their thankfulness for the loving care of their brethren when they had fallen into sin.
“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:2-4).