The Coronavirus has caused society to ask an all-important question: Is the church essential? Is the church an essential institution in our society? Obviously, the answer for any bible believing Christian is yes! Extremely essential.

I want to jump right into the Word today by looking at who is the head of the church. If the head of  an institution is important, then the institution is important.  Ephesians 1:22-23 says “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him (Jesus) to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Jesus is the head of the church.  The church although it is an organization is also an organism.  Christ is the head and we are His body. We are the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus on the earth today.  I think that the very fact that Jesus is the ultimate head of the church makes the church essential. We are His church.

I am the first to say, that in the current crisis, that it is not essential that we gather together in large groups. The church is not a large gathering, the church is people. And people can be the church anywhere in our world. But just because we are not meeting publicly  does not diminish our capacity to have a positive effect on our society. In fact, if anything, this situation has caused the church to wake up spiritually. We are having an even greater effect on society!  If there is a lesson to be learned in this situation, it is that not being at church doesn’t diminish at all who we are in Christ. We are still the church. We are still salt in an unsavory world.  We are still light in a dark world of despair.

Is the church essential to our society? Yes. And the good news is that the church will stand until the trumpet sounds and we are called home.  The church is 2000 years old and we have went through lots of things.  We have endured persecution, scandal, being fed to the lions, and burned at the stake. The church has went through many wars and famines and other plagues.  Guess what? We are still here.

I love the description that Paul gives to young Timothy of the church.  1 Timothy 3:16 he says “I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”  In Times of trouble, or times of prosperity. Coronavirus or no coronavirus. People straying from God or people running to God.  May we forever stand as the pillar and ground of the Truth.

Is the church essential to our society? Here are three biblical reasons why the church is essential.

  1. We hold the key to the spiritual healing of our land.

I don’t want you to miss what I am saying here. I am grateful to be a part of this great land of America.  I know that many have been looking to the government to do what is necessary during this crisis and the government should do what it can.  I pray for and ask God to give wisdom to the Task Force and to the President and to the Governors. I am grateful for our government.

I am grateful for the medical profession: Doctors, nurses, hospital aides EMT’s, those who are developing vaccines, and making ventilators.  There is no group that has been more heroic at this time.  Many have worked tirelessly.

And I am grateful for society as a whole. For every person wearing a face mask. For every family practicing social distancing. It is all making a difference.  And I honestly believe that with Gods help, we will overcome!

But I want the world and the church to understand something. The church has an important role to play.  It is not on the front lines…but it is even a more important role than government or doctors.   I am not diminishing them. I appreciate them. I also appreciate the church, because the church looks beyond the crisis of the moment, to the spiritual state and condition of the nation as a whole. Will we defeat this disease. Yes!   We are going to all work together to fight and overcome this disease.  I fully believe the economy will open back up. One day, things will have a semblance of normalcy.

The question in my mind is not will our land be healed just of the coronavirus. My question is Will this nation return to God?  Will the people of our land be turning to the Lord or will we simply go back to living our lives and leaving God out!  I have never forgotten the Sundays after 911.  Churches were filled for two or three weeks and then everything went back to normal. I don’t want that following this crisis.  My prayer is that the church will not go back to normal.  And so the church has a role to play if we will dare to step into it and believe God.

2 Chronicles 7:13 speaks of moments when disease comes -when pestilence is ravaging the land.  And then the Word in the very next verse gives us this instruction.  2 Chronicles 7:14   if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” There is a role for the church to play in all of this.  It says, If my people.  It doesn’t say if the president, or if the congress, or if the medical profession.  It says, If the people of God, who know God, who belong to Christ,  if they will fulfill their role, THEN God promises he will hear and he will heal the land.

What is the role we have? What should we be doing right now? What is our responsibility in all of this? The government and medical profession are doing what they can. But will the church step into its role and do what we know we need to do.

There are four things enumerated here in this verse that outlines our role when pestilence is in our land:

a.   We are to humble ourselves.

We are a proud people in the United States.  In our culture there is an underlying sense of self-reliance.  We are a can-do people.  That has trickled over and into the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In our culture, we have money, insurance, doctors, cars, homes, and plenty of food. It is almost as though we don’t need God. Most Americans have no idea how much they need God. Most church goers don’t know how much the church needs God.  Because here is the truth… without Him we can do nothing.

It is a humble stance to say that.  If all I have to depend upon are my best efforts, I will fail!  The arm of flesh will not produce what God is able to produce.  Because a church can have the best sound system,  all the lights,  the slickest programs, and the most beautiful sanctuary.  Here is the truth: If God doesn’t show up in the house, it will not produce the effect we need.  Knowing that…sw need to humble ourselves…and say God we need you.

b. We are to pray

I am not talking about blessing the food before we eat.  We have to pray like our grandparents prayed in WWI and WWII.  We have to really intercede. We need to ask God to strengthen our faith,  send a move of his Spirit and to bring revival to this land. Do we take the spiritual condition of our family and friends and coworkers to heart? Is the church essential in this? Yes!

Years ago, I heard a pastor by the name of Jackson Senyonga from Uganda.  The stories he told were tremendous.  He spoke of the church during the desperate years when that country was under the reign of Idi Amin, a cruel dictator. The churches were burned. Christians were persecuted.  People were executed for no reason whatsoever. Man’s inhumanity to man is incredible.  And the people of God in desperation began to pray.  They would go out into the jungle and gather in groups of two and three and call out on God. Sometimes days on end.  One would have to stand watch while others prayed, because to be caught praying was a certain death. That is all that the church could do.  God heard their cry. Idi Amin was ultimately over-thrown and a great revival came to that country. The churches were literally filled to overflowing with people turning to God.

Now we aren’t that desperate.  But listen.  We don’t need things to get that desperate.  While we have an opportunity, while we are sheltering in our homes.  Let’s really pray. We have not because we ask not. I am asking not just for coronavirus to be taken away, but for Gods church to be strengthened and for revival to come.

c. We are to seek His face

We are not to seek his hand. This isn’t about what we can get from God. We are to seek his face to get to know him better.  To be able to hear his still small voice speak.  It is out of our personal relationship with God that God moves.  Now is the time to get to know God better.

d. We are to turn from our wicked ways.

The tendency that the church has is to look out on a world who doesn’t know God, doesn’t follow God, doesn’t listen to God and say, if they would stop that, then our land would be healed.  That is not what the Word says.  It says we are to take personal inventory.  We are to stop anything in our lives that isn’t pleasing to Him. If we do that we have this promise: “…then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 

 Is the church essential? Yes!

  1. We reveal Christ to the world.

We are his hands and feet and voice.  There is no greater time for the church to shine than right now.  22 million people have lost their jobs.  Thousands are coming down sick.  Fear is paralyzing many people in our world.  The future is uncertain.  Now is the time for you and me to shine.

1 Peter 2:9-10   “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;  who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”

The church has a special role in society.  We are a chosen generation…God chose to allow this virus to go around the world in this moment.  Why?  Because he knew he had a people who have called out of darkness into His marvelous light.  And he knew that they would proclaim His praises.  And that is what is happening.  It is all over social media-never before have so many live streams of preaching and teaching been on social media.  Gods people are still praising Him. It is rising up from living rooms and cars and people going for walks. In fact, we are magnifying Him in this hour by lifting Him as the answer that the world needs.

Our message to the world is Jesus! We are revealing Him. We are saying to the world: “Let not your heart be troubled. Don’t worry! There is a God who is in control. There is a God who can heal. There is a God that can be trusted.”

You see, there was a time in our life when we didn’t used to be a people.  We were just individuals , just drifting through the world doing our own thing. We had not yet obtained mercy.  But he called us, chose us, and redeemed us. Mercy, grace and forgiveness came and we became a people. A chosen generation.  And now we are a Royal priesthood.  A priest is one who makes intercession between God and humanity.  We are a holy nation.  We are his own special people.  We have a message for the world.

If you want Peace, Jesus is peace.

If you want Hope Jesus is hope.

If you want Freedom, whom the Son sets free is free indeed.

If you want Joy, He is joy unspeakable and full of glory.

The church is essential because we pump massive amounts of faith and positivity into the culture.  Why?  Because we declare Jesus. Is the church essential? Yes, because God has left us here to reveal His Son to the world, even as Jesus revealed God when He was on this earth.  As the household of God, the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth, we are the current expression of Jesus Christ in the world until He comes.

What a staggering job description! Nothing could be of greater importance!  Maybe you’ve been turned off by bad experiences in churches that were institutional—where God dwelled only in name, but not in reality. You need to grasp a new vision of what God intends for His church, locally expressed, and commit yourself to this church.  We need to make it happen right here, so that people will say, “I have seen the living God dwelling among His people.”

The great composer, Gicomo Puccini, whose operas number among the world’s favorites, was stricken with cancer in 1922.  But he was determined to write a final opera, “Turandot,” which some consider his best. His students implored him to rest, to save his strength, but he persisted, remarking at one point, “If I do not finish my music, my students will finish it.”

In 1924, Puccini was taken to Brussels to be operated on. He died there two days after his surgery.  But his students did finish his final work.  In 1926, the gala premiere was held in Milan under the baton of Puccini’s favorite student, Arturo Toscanini.  All went brilliantly that evening until they came to the point in the score where the master had been forced to put down his pen. Toscanini, his face wet with tears, stopped the production, put down his baton, turned to the audience and cried out, “Thus far the master wrote, but he died!”

After a few moments, his face now wreathed in a smile, Toscanini picked up his baton and cried out again, “But his disciples finished his work!”

Last week we celebrated the death burial and resurrection of Jesus.  Our Master died, was raised from the dead, and ascended to the Father, leaving us the most important task in the world: Finishing His work, and proclaiming His great salvation among the nations. To do it, each one of us must commit ourselves to a living relationship with the living God. We must commit ourselves to one another as members of God’s household. We must commit ourselves to know, live by, and defend God’s Word of Truth.  It is amazing thing to me, we get to assist God in finishing Jesus work.

  1. We provide a healing community full of love.

I want to quote today, a pastor in Chicago, Illinois.  He is not from my denomination, or nor do I follow all that he does.  He makes a powerful statement about the church.  Bill Hybels said, “There is nothing like the local church when it’s working right. Its beauty is indescribable. Its power is breathtaking. Its potential is unlimited. It comforts the grieving and heals the broken in the context of community. It builds bridges to seekers and offers truth to the confused. It provides resources for those in need and opens its arms to the forgotten, the downtrodden, the disillusioned. It breaks the chains of addictions, frees the oppressed, and offers belonging to the marginalized of this world. Whatever the capacity for human suffering, the church has a greater capacity for healing and wholeness. Still to this day, the potential of the local church is almost more than I can grasp. No other organization on earth is like the church. Nothing even comes close.”

Is the church essential in our world today? Yes, because the church is a place where anyone can come and be healed.

Most people have heard of the story of the Good Samaritan.  Jesus told this powerful story of a man who is traveling and winds up getting robbed and beaten. He is left on the side of the road to perish and die. He cannot save himself.  A priest comes by but he has too many religious duties to attend to and passes him.  A Levite comes by and he also passes him by.  But finally a man comes who is a Samaritan.  He does the right thing.  Luke 10:34 NIV  says,  “He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.”

Of course, if you read the rest of the parable it is implied that the man found complete restoration and healing in the comfort of the Inn.  One of the striking aspects of early Christian interpretations of Scripture is a tendency to understand the biblical text in relationship to the church.  Whereas we are inclined today to read scripture in individualistic terms, early Christians were inclined to read Scripture in corporate terms. They were eager to discern what a particular text had to say about the nature of the church.

In St. Augustine’s comments on the story of the Good Samaritan he said,  “Let us be carried to the inn to be healed.” While modern readers are likely to focus on the Samaritan’s heroic compassion, Augustine focuses on the role the church plays in the healing of the wounded man, prompted by the reference to the inn in verse 34.   The Samaritan brings the wounded man to the inn and gives the innkeeper two denarii to continue looking after the man.  These often overlooked details are no small matter for Augustine. Through figurative interpretation, they lead him to a reflection on the church.

For Augustine, the inn is a symbol of the church, for the church is the community where Christ the Physician heals wounded people.  The church is the place of healing. The church is where people who are wounded by sin can experience Christ’s healing grace.  Augustine’s comments on this famous story result in a powerful image of the church. The church is the place of healing. The church is where people who are wounded by sin can experience Christ’s healing grace.

One thing is certain about this image of the church: the church is not peripheral to salvation. Indeed, it is necessary for salvation. Because without the inn, the wounded man would not be healed. Without the church, we would not experience Christ’s love and acceptance and healing.   Although Augustine was clear that the church is not perfect while it is on its earthly sojourn, he did insist, along with other Christians of his time, that the church is the community that God indwells and is thus the single place of salvation in the world.

I believe in the church.  I have seen the healing restorative power of the church.  In a church that loves like Jesus, it is a place where you can come faults, failures, brokenness.  And usually there is a safe place and a safe person that you can say:

This is who I really am.

This is what I really struggle with.

These are the sins where I have failed.

And you will not receive a harsh word of judgment.  No, you will meet grace.  People who say, it’s okay. God loves you. We love you and we are here to help.  And like the Samaritan poured on the wine and oil, we can pour on the love and grace that causes healing.

How essential is the church to our society?

Ask the man who had failed in his marriage, but he and his wife were loved on by people in the church and they managed to make it through that rough patch and now everything is great, even better.

Ask the single mom who was struggling to pay the bills and struggling with loneliness and heartache, but a family came along and helped her get her car fixed.

Ask the teen who needed encouragement after his dad died, and some youth leader or Ranger leader came along and put his arms around him, and said its gonna be okay and walked him through it.

Ask the thousands upon thousands who went to a Celebrate Recovery program. And they walked in the door, broken, hurting and as they shared their hurts and habits that first night the tears ran down there cheeks, and a year later, they have worked the steps and are doing so much better.

Ask the hundreds of people who were the recipients of those who were making amends.

Ask the senior who is at home and no one calls but that lady at church who kind of adopted and invites her over a meal once in a while.

Ask the millions of people who attended church and can tell you of a moment they were about to throw in the towel, but some preacher shared just the right message at the right time.

Ask the mom who is struggling with knowing how to discipline her kids and that older lady just in conversation gently nudged her in the right direction.

I am just here to tell yo that the church has value.  It is essential to our society.

How many good deeds are done in the name of Jesus?

How many hospital beds are visited by believers?

How many funeral dinners have been served by churches in the last decade?

How many marriages have been saved?

How many affairs have been mended?

How many depressions have been staved off?

How many angry young men and women have found a hearing and been able to forgive?

You know a lot of people thing that the church finds its meaning and purpose in the mega house, with the great worship team and the world famous preacher with 50,000 followers on Instagram. But I am here to declare that the real work of the church is done by simple people.

It’s done in restaurants, and schools, and by backyard fences.

It’s done at BBQ’s and family reunions.

It’s usually not done by preachers.  It is done by ordinary followers of Jesus who share their life and testimony. There is nothing that can stop it.  There is no one with that kind of power.  It is a movement.

It is real.  And in these days…we may feel shut in.   But everyone knows someone.

My friend Bill Olson used to say, did you know that one word given in the right moment in the right spirit, can change the destiny of someone’s life.  Let’s go forth into this world.  Let’s bring hurting people into a community of people who will love them.