There is only one reason the Church exists, and no, it’s not to keep stained glass artists busy. Don’t get me wrong, stained glass windows are beautiful, and our worship experience is greatly enhanced when the sun shines through those gorgeous colorful windows. But that’s not why Jesus founded the Church.
The Church was not founded for the following reasons either: to give us a place to hold weddings and funerals, to provide an opportunity to show off our new clothes on Easter, and as a destination for folks to gather and have a potluck supper. (By the way, there is no one who enjoys potluck suppers more than I do. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, there have been no potluck suppers at my parish for more months than I can count—and it’s making me very sad!)
There is only one reason the Church was founded, and that one reason is to spread the Gospel message. That’s it. Everything else about the Church—the clergy, the fellowship, the food drives for the poor, the donations that support homeless shelters, the crisis pregnancy centers, the choirs, the pipe organ music, the flowers around the altar, the stained glass windows, etc.—are all good and noble and beautiful things. But they are not the main reason for the Church.
Jesus founded His Church for one purpose: to proclaim the Gospel message throughout the world for all generations.
And what exactly is the Gospel message? Ah, good question. We’ve gotten so caught up in all the other activities of parish life that far too many believers don’t know what the simple and basic Gospel message is.
A good and simple explanation is found in the “Four Gospel Truths,” presented by the Life in the Spirit Seminar. (Some of our evangelical friends call them the “Four Spiritual Laws.”) Here’s a summary:
Truth #1: God loves us and wants us to live full, happy lives.
Truth #2: Human beings are sinful and separated from God, and therefore we cannot know God’s love and share in God’s life with others.
Truth #3: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on the cross to pay the price for our sins, and then He rose from the grave conquering death once and for all.
Truth #4: If we put our faith in Jesus and seek to follow His commands, we can have our sins forgiven and receive the gift of eternal life.
That’s it. The Gospel message could not be any simpler. The Creator of the Universe loves His creation, us. But since by nature we are selfish and cruel, we commit sins, which cause a big gulf between the holy God and ourselves. Thankfully, God loved us so much, He sent a part of His own being, His Son Jesus, to take on human flesh. (Don’t get hung up on the mystery of the Trinity. It’s a mind-boggling concept, but the main point is that God is not constrained by the same 3-dimensional natural forces that limit us here in the material world. We take it on faith that the one, eternal, almighty, supernatural God can exist in three separate persons.)
Jesus did the most amazing act of love the world has ever seen: He willingly gave up His sinless life to pay the price for all the sins human beings ever committed. Then, three days later, the most amazing miracle the world has ever seen occurred: Jesus rose from the dead, conquering the stench of death once and for all.
That’s the Gospel. That’s the message that has transformed the world by transforming individual hearts from darkness to light, from anger to joy, from hate to love, from death to eternal life. All the other aspects of Church operations—the buildings, the programs, the stained glass windows, the fund-raisers, the potluck suppers—are merely tools to help perform the one and only job the Church has: to spread the Gospel message.
If you, like many believers, have lost sight of the basic Gospel message, this would be a great time to go back to the basics. The Gospel message can be summarized in those four simple truths. As it says in Luke’s gospel: “Easy-peasy!”