The Primary Emphasis Needs to Be a Relationship with Jesus Christ
Every one then who hears these words of Mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.
And every one who hears these words of Mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it.
The primary emphasis in a church community needs to be on members building a relationship with Jesus Christ. Everything that happens related to Christianity begins and ends with this. If a person belongs to a church community, even if they are really involved (come to worship regularly, are active in programs and ministries) but don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, one has to wonder what is the driving force behind this person’s involvement in the church?
Most people also enter school before they can remember anything. Parents gently tell their toddlers that they go to school to learn. This gets reinforced as children get older—they have to go to school to learn. Ultimately, our children as they become teens and young adults are encouraged to not only learn in school, but learn about themselves, discover their talents, and figure out what they will do with their lives. At some point formal schooling ends, and one takes his or her place in the workforce, doing what they learned. And even once formal schooling ends, there is still a need for continuing education, as people continue to perfect their crafts.
The church exists to help foster, grow and deepen this relationship with the Lord. Most people enter the church as infants, through baptism. They are introduced to the church before they remember anything. Ideally as children get older, the idea of building a relationship with the Lord is reinforced. The more they learn about Jesus Christ, the more they will also learn about themselves, their talents, and their purpose. They will figure out how to use their lives to honor God and serve others. While Sunday school will end at high school, they will want to continually learn about the Lord, deepen the relationship, and work to “perfect” themselves as Christians.
Except that by and large this is not happening. We are “raising Christians” who have no relationship with the Lord. They might even fill our Sunday school classes and our pews. They might be adults who sing in the choir or serve on the Parish Council.
Whatever age or stage we are at, it is important that each of us examines our relationship with Jesus Christ. As Jesus tells us in Matthew 7, each person’s life is compared to building a house. Each of us has been given the tools to build the house. It’s as if we’ve each been given the roof, the windows, doors, walls, and floors, as well as the stucco, wood, roof tiles, hammers, nails, and all the other things that are part of building a house. What differs between people is the kind of foundation they choose to build their life on. If the foundation is faith in Jesus Christ, the house will stand every test, including the final test: what happens when we die? If the foundation is not based on faith in Jesus Christ, if there is no relationship with Jesus Christ, it is as if the house is build on sand, and when trials and tests come in life, including the final exam, that house won’t stand.
We need to take a critical look at ourselves and at our church communities and ask fundamental questions about a relationship with Jesus Christ—do we have one and how solid is it? And is the church fostering and encouraging members to have a relationship with Jesus Christ or not? And finally, where is the disconnect between belonging to a church community or identifying as a Christian but lacking this relationship?
People have memberships in all kinds of groups—they might belong to a country club or a gym—but they don’t have a relationship with the country club or gym. Because the relationship can be severed at any time, or put off, and there is no real consequence. I belonged to a gym years ago, and then quit, and maybe someday I’ll go back. It was a membership, not a relationship.
Our involvement in a church must be more about relationship with Jesus Christ than membership. Because the consequences of believing and belonging are real, and permanent. Our communities may have many members and many programs but all go for naught if there isn’t a push for a foundational identity and relationship with Jesus Christ. We may be a faithful member of the church but this also goes for naught if we don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
I wash my hands in innocence, and go about Thy altar, O Lord, singing aloud a song of thanksgiving, and telling all Thy wondrous deeds.
O Lord, I love the habitation of Thy house, and the place where Thy glory dwells. Sweep me not away with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men, men in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes.
But as for me, I walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me. My foot stands on level ground; in the great congregation I will bless the Lord.
The primary emphasis in every church community needs to be helping members build a relationship with Jesus Christ.