Why do we have church?
While there are many ways to answer that question, I believe that one of the more important answers is this: There is no better tool that we can use to tear down our own self-centeredness than the church.
Think about it: Wherever the world says “Take!”, the church says, “Give.” Wherever the world says, “Demand more!”, the church says, “Provide for others.” Wherever the world says, “You deserve to be treated better!”, the church says, “Humble yourself and serve ‘the least of these.’”
Wherever the world says, “Look at me!”, the church says, “Look to Christ.”
See, Jesus Christ is the end of our self-centeredness. To see Him is to see a model of selfless living. To live with Him is to daily die to ourselves. Heeding his call, we do battle with the raging monster of “ME!”, striving against it, bending it to His will, subduing it that we may better serve Christ and those whom He would have us serve. And there is no better training for this battleground than to be found regularly in the church.
This is true because, after all, the church is populated with sinners. People who have issues and fears and failures and struggles. People for whom “stressed out” can often turn into “lash out.” And though some misguided part of us insists that we should never find such people in church, in the church is precisely the place where sinners gather. And inevitably, when a fellow Christian in their sin runs roughshod over us, immediately the monster “ME!” demands that we return hurt for hurt, mistreatment for mistreatment. Because, after all, the “ME!” insists that that other Christian should know better than to hurt. Or to mistreat.
But so should we. And living in Christ, we know what to do next.
So thus cruelly mistreated, we gather our breath, steady our stance . . . and pick up our cross. Turning back the monster me, we die to ourselves and our list of wants and demands, and lovingly minister even to the one who would mistreat us, because we are in Christ and He in us. His love puts the final death-blow to our self-centeredness, and we find ourselves extending His love to others so that they too may learn to die to self.
And the place we learned this was in the church.