Genesis is the story of God choosing a favorite nation. Exodus is the account of God saving his chosen people. Leviticus focuses on God’s beloved bride being educated, and in Numbers, Israel is organized. In the early chapters of this book, God demands that a census be taken. It is important that Israel know which young men are being set apart for war. They must also know which young men are being set apart by God to lead in worship. Following this census, God prescribes the organization of the tribes or clans. At the epicenter of the camp, the Tabernacle is to be found. The leaders of worship are to surround the Tabernacle, and those who are warriors are to surround the ministers and the tent of worship. God does everything decently and in order. Clearly, God is showing that all his kingdom warriors should center their lives around God’s Priests, God’s House, and most importantly God’s Spirit. (Represented by the Shekinah Glory Cloud)
Many years ago, as a young man, I worked for a church in Charlotte, North Carolina. On one of this church’s publications, the following tag-line was printed, “Center your life around your church.” At that time in my life, being twenty-five and full of wisdom, I pontificated to my secretary, “See, that is the problem around here. Everyone seems to center their life around their church. Instead they should be centering their life around Jesus Christ.” On that particular day, I am not sure if my administrative assistant was impressed with my brilliant assessment of organized religion, but I was.
Now that I am a bit more seasoned, I am not so sure my ecclesiastical assessment was entirely correct. Surely, one should center his or her life around the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Worshiping God with all one’s heart, soul, mind and strength is one’s reason for existence. In the words of the Westminster Fathers, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Solomon was right, one can prioritize wealth, projects, sex, education, pleasure, food, or any other idol, and all one will find is empty meaninglessness. Indeed, all wise individuals will center their lives around the Lord.
However, the question needs to be asked, “Can one center his life around Christ and not center his life around Christ’s church?” Frankly, I think this is impossible; for an honorable Christian will center his life around that which Christ loves, that which Christ builds, and that which Christ commands. Jesus Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. In addition, the Lord ordained Apostles who set the model for how to build local, visible churches. Then, these inspired teachers presented the Master’s commands. Christians are not to forsake the assembling of themselves together. All obedient followers are to submit to elders. Together, they are to utilize deacons who lead in caring for the poor and needy. Worshipers of Christ are to gather regularly with brothers and sisters. The family of Christ is to enjoy teaching and the breaking of bread. Fellowship and prayer are not to be abandoned. Christians are given spiritual gifts by the Holy Spirit. Gifted individuals are to be equipped by elders and their gifts used to edify those in the body. The entire New Testament involves churchmen, writing to churchmen, on how to do church. True, there is an invisible church which consists of all the elect, from all nations, from all time periods. But there is also a visible church that is called to be visibly beautiful and ever multiplying.
Therefore, I conclude that one who honors and adores the Savior, will love, build, and prioritize the visible church. In centering his life around Jesus Christ, he will center his life around a local body of Christ. So, in this day of overcrowded schedules, para-church initiatives, and people doing the “unchurched” thing, I might ask my friends to reconsider their theology and priority. True, many visible churches are rubbish in the eyes of God. In many assemblies the Spirit has left and Christ has removed their lamp stand. But all across the globe, there are many Holy Spirit filled churches that are beautiful to him. Should not all believers love Christ by finding a good church, loving that church, building that church, and doing what the Master has commanded?
Israel centered their culture around their church. Should not the New Israel of God do the same?