God wants our companionship. He wants us to join him in His priorities and plans for the future.
The Kingdom of God is another way of describing the relationship between brothers and sisters in Christ that Jesus wants to see in the church. It is fair to ask: Why does God need a church? Perhaps a good way to address this question is to ask what does the church do for God?
The first thing we think about when we think about church is the worship service. When someone asks, “Do you go to church?” they are thinking about a building with a worship service happening inside. The point of the service is worship, believers gathering together to worship their God. Usually worship is presented to God through music, prayer, thanksgiving, and a religious talk that allows the believers to meditate on God’s Word. So in this way, the church provides God with worship.
But does God need worship? He has angels in heaven worshipping Him all day long. Does He need our worship? Does He require adoration and constant reminders of His own goodness? Worship does something for us. It focuses us on a good God, reminds us that we are not alone, shows us the bigger picture of God’s system, and reassures us that this sinful planet is not all that there is.
The Kingdom of God that Jesus kept talking about in the gospels is the greater system that God created, the perfect, balanced, nourishing system that exists all around us and that will be reestablished on this earth when Jesus comes again. We are blinded to the Kingdom of God by sin. The act of worship reconnects us with God and His perfect ways. The question remains, however, Why does God need a church? Is it solely for our benefit that the church exists? Or does the church have a bigger role than that of comforting and educating its members?
Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He gave the Great Commission: “ ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature’ ” (Mark 16:15, NKJV). God looks down on the world and sees so many lost, fearful, searching individuals, people He lovingly formed in the womb, giving them personalities and strengths, futures and destinies. It was His will that each one be born, and it breaks His heart to think of any one of them being lost. So He commissioned His followers (the church), to go find them and bring them home.
Jesus told the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). It has become a famous story throughout history, a proverbial catchphrase, and even unbelievers know the general plot twists. We all know about the younger brother who went wild, leaving home with his inheritance and going to squander it in the city. We also know about the “good son” who stayed home with his father, working the farm and doing what he thought was the will of his father. When the younger son comes to his senses and returns home seeking forgiveness, the good son becomes angry. He refuses to celebrate, and we mentally chastise him for being so very selfish. Of course, we can understand his outrage, but there is such a thing as being gracious! And that is where we normally leave it.
In some ways, however, the good son had not actually done the will of his father. The father was heartbroken at the loss of his younger boy. The good son knew this. He knew how difficult this was for his old father, and he also knew that the old man could not go out searching for the boy. Yet still, the good son stayed at home, stayed where it was safe, comfortable, and proper.
But if that good son had really loved his father, if he had been in touch with his father’s feelings and heartbreak, if he had truly known his father, he would have known that what would have made his father happiest was not to simply stay home and be good, but to go find his wayward younger brother and at least attempt to bring him back to his father. A family is not happy or whole unless all the members are accounted for. It is the same with God’s family.
The church, in Bible prophecy, is referred to as a woman, “the bride of Christ.” He is her husband, waiting to take her to the home He has prepared. When a man falls in love, all he can think about is his beloved! (See Song of Solomon.) He adores her. He wants to make her happy. He thinks about what he can do for her to make her smile. And when he marries her, he is so proud! She loves him, too, and the world knows it. They are united. They are one. They are facing life together.
Does he need her to cook for him? He can cook for himself quite easily, and if he is challenged in that area, there is always someone willing to cook for him, whether at a family member’s home or in a restaurant. Does he need her to financially support him? No, he’s been supporting himself all along, and if she wants to stay home with the new baby, he can support her too. He doesn’t need her money. Does he need her to organize the finances, go grocery shopping, make the bed or do any other jobs around the house? Not particularly. All those could be taken care of without her. In fact, they were before he met her. So does he need her?
Yes, he does need her. He needs her because he loves her. He is physically capable of functioning without her, but he doesn’t want to. He needs her to talk to him, to love him, to hold his hand. He needs her to join him in the goals they have for the future. He needs her companionship. He needs her.
And if God is like that husband who is fully capable of doing all that He needs to do without the church, then He is also like that husband in that He doesn’t want to function without the church. He wants our companionship. He wants us to join Him in His priorities and plans for the future. He wants us.
What does the church do for God? The church loves Him! And like a wife who loves her husband, it isn’t enough just to enjoy the nice house and comfortable life her husband provides. In fact, the unhealthy “kept woman” mentality that many societies have gotten caught up in over the centuries may be one reason that we don’t understand this metaphor of God and the church. A loving relationship requires that both join in on the goals and plans for the family. She doesn’t just shop and ignore him, she stays up late with him, working out a budget that will help them to achieve what they are striving for. He runs the errands she doesn’t have time for. Both contribute in every way they know how, financially or otherwise.
God doesn’t demand that we love Him. But He craves a relationship with us. And that is where the mission of the church comes into play. His children are lonely, sick, and lost, and He is heartbroken until they are brought home. If we love Him, why aren’t we searching for them with Him?*