The Church, Part One
by Charles R. Swindoll

Matthew 16:18

So, what's the big deal about the church?

Good question. And it deserves a good answer. Something more than, "You gotta have one to get married in," or "It's the place kids oughta be on Sunday." Or how about, "There's not a better spot to make business contacts."

Really, now . . . haven't you wondered at times if the church is that significant in a day of high-level decisions and powerful international issues? I sure have. How could a congregation of folks carry much clout in our modern era of transcontinental missiles, mind-boggling scientific discoveries, space exploration, and impressive educational advancements? It's easy to be a tad cynical when you compare the importance of a brilliant body of keen-thinking minds wrestling over a decision that could impact a continent of humanity with a few dozen people in some white clapboard building singing "In the Sweet Bye and Bye."

Yet, unless you've recently sliced Matthew 16:18 out of your Bible, it still says the same thing Jesus said. It still includes an unconditional promise that the church is His personal project ("I will build My church") and also that it will be perpetually invincible. No way will "the gates of hell" put it out of business. When you chew on that thought long enough, you begin to realize that the church is the impervious anvil, and all these other hot items, no matter how impressive and loud and intimidating, will ultimately cool off and be replaced.

I remember a message Dr. Jay Kesler gave at a family camp at Forest Home Conference Center. The title of his talk was unpretentious: "Why I Believe in the Local Church." Disarmed by simplicity, all of us in the audience walked away with our heads a little higher, our shoulders no longer slumped as though we had something to prove to a world that often doubts our reason for existence. Jay offered five splendid answers.

1. The church is the only institution dealing with the ultimate issues. Death. Judgment. Relationships. Purpose. Lasting priorities. Meaning in life. Identity. Heaven and Hell.

2. The church provides perspective that gives dignity to mankind. We live in a day in which man has become a means rather than an end. This creates a desperate sense of inner worthlessness. The church counteracts this insidious message.

3. The church provides a moral and ethical compass in the midst of relativism. Like a swamp of murky, slimy water, our society has either rethought, resisted, or completely rejected absolutes. Not the church! It still stands on the timeless bedrock of Scripture.

4. The church is the only place to find true community, healing, compassion, and love. It is here people care. Really care. Not because of status or money. But because the Spirit of God is at work, weaving together the lives within the Body.

5. The church (like no other institution) has provided motivation for the most lasting, unselfish, essential, courageous ministries on earth. Schools. Hospitals. Halfway houses. Orphanages. Leprosariums. Missions.

Look back over the list. Think each one through. See if it doesn't thrill you to realize you are connected with such a significant arm of strength. We'll talk more about this amazing institution, the church, tomorrow.

Excerpted from Come Before Winter and Share My Hope, Copyright © 1985, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.