Written by Shawn Naylor
One year as the spring equinox approached, I was hiking on a friend’s farm. I left the cornfields into a field of grass with the forest as the backdrop. Scattered throughout all the green I saw different coloured flowers. I was confronted by two sequential questions: Are these flowers relevant? Are they necessary?
I undertook a small research project once I returned home. What I discovered was that flowers are both relevant and necessary for the health and beauty of their surroundings. Furthermore, the variation of flowers is directly the result of the regions and environments in which they are found.
Is this relevant? Is it necessary? I’ve found these to be great questions that can crucially be applied to other areas of life as well. And I remain both eager and fearful of these questions and actions required by their answers.
Imagine we applied them to the local church. The local church is defined as a community of people who insist on the name of Christ and apply the precepts of the Bible. So what makes it relevant? If the local church is responding to current issues by offering solutions, then yes, it is relevant. For example, churches can respond to abortion issues by supporting organizations that offer holistic support for unexpected pregnancies, young parenthood, and sexual health.
If a church isn’t participating in its community, then its relevance is in question. It is imperative that churches regularly and purposely engage and position themselves accordingly.
And then, is the local church necessary? Necessary means essential, indispensable, requisite, vital. As I leaned into this question, my research led me to the persecuted church as a potential part of the answer. Why would these people risk everything to gather together? It simply doesn’t make sense unless the act of gathering is indispensable. The persecuted church shows us the need for encouragement and sharpening to deal with the onslaught of an exterior hostile environment.
From a biblical view, the local church is necessary for believers, though at times it may be tough to attend for many reasons. I like to think of the local church as a gym. Let’s say the gym is the only place to get fit and maintain health. Then I, as an outsider, would expect that everyone coming out of the gym would have results and become healthier than those who aren’t going to the gym. Yet the results are dependent on the instruction given by the instructor and the work put in by the participant.
Similarly, to get fit and maintain health (spiritually), we need the local church. In Christian communities, areas of sin we tend to avoid get exposed and addressed.
For me, church is where I learned how to stand up for what I believe, research what I learn, preach, speak up, forgive, encourage, and the importance of finding a Christian partner. These are things I use daily.
Consider this old story where relevance and necessity come together; 2 Kings 4:1-7 tells of Elisha and a widow. This widow is in debt because of her husband and she reaches out to Elisha for help. Rather than being disengaged and distant, Elisha steps into the situation. God, through Elisha, provides the necessary result by way of a miracle that gives freedom to the widow and her sons.
As 1 Timothy 4:14 reminds us, we should not neglect to use our gifts. They have been given to us so we can embody Christ’s kingdom to the world, enacting the church’s relevance and necessity through our lives. Flowers contribute to the beauty and health of their environments; churches also are meant to be an essential part of the ecosystem in our communities. Is the local church relevant and necessary? Yes, if we participate!