Many people are talking about when things could reopen, based on what is considered necessary, in addition to what already is considered necessary. I understand some of the measurements that are used to determine what is necessary – like food. However, I am a little confused today, because the other day I went to a large retail chain, to buy bagged mulch, but was told I could not – even though the website that I consulted before I went said it was available as in-store purchase. Later that day, I went to a supermarket, only to find the same exact mulch (color, brand, bag size) on sale and available – but twice the price.
The same subject of reopening and necessity came up when I was on a Zoom meeting with some pastors and laymen, and one of the pastors made a remark, that caused me to think. After a few men mentioned what they thought would be open soon, someone said – but not churches, because they aren’t necessary. Which prompted one of the other pastors to say “it’s too bad that the church is not seen as necessary.” At first, I agreed – sure, that would seem to be obvious. However, when has the church been seen as necessary? Is there anything in scripture to urge us to make sure the community sees us as necessary? And further – necessary for what, exactly?
Historically, the church has been seen on a spectrum – from highly dangerous and must be eliminated (think of the persecutions in Rome in ancient times, or the persecutions today in Islamic or Communist regimes) – to ruling over all, even Emperors, Kings – and then everything in between. So how should we think of the church’s necessity?
What might help us is to recognize what Jesus said – “I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.” To me, this means that the church is necessary – and Jesus will make sure it will succeed, no matter what. But, necessary for what? For enabling the world to know, primarily, that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Whatever else the community thinks of us, I hope they hear and understand that message, even if they think of it as foolish and obsolete. We are necessary for the distribution of the good news of reconciliation with God, exclusively in Christ – He is THE NECESSITY. And when we have Him, we have EVERYTHING – and it takes a lifetime of walking with Him to appreciate that.
Maybe when churches re-open they can do so with a renewed dedication to our primary necessity? And perhaps that begins with us – how necessary is Jesus to the way I live my life? The church in the city of Laodicea was having their meetings – and Jesus was not necessary at all. In fact, He was knocking on the door of the church, asking to be let in. I’m afraid that is perhaps why we aren’t seen as necessary anymore – maybe the quality of our lives and our goals communicate to those around us that the good life is more important than the godly life?
Those are challenging questions, and I hope we will be honest in our answers. This virus may be what we need to think deeply about them, since we have been limited to what we can have of the good life.
In the past the church was very necessary in serving humanitarian purposes of all kinds – from providing food, clothing, shelter, skill set training, arbitration in disputes – for these the church has been seen as necessary – especially before governments were involved in these things.
Now that the latter has taken over so much of the humanitarian side, we probably would benefit ourselves and others to ask: how well are we communicating the necessity of salvation only in Christ? How well are we showing that in Him, we have everything we need – for life, for hope, for love, for relationships, for wisdom in careers, and for serving some way in a crisis – that will lead to the world asking why we have such a hope in us? And then we can respond – Jesus is THE GREAT NECESSITY – get to know Him.