"After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 'The time has come,' he said. 'The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!'" (Mark 1:14-15)
"As for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 3:14-15)
"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1:18)
God is on a mission to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10) in order to restore our relationship with him (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)! So God forms a group of forgiven sinners (yes, imperfect people) into a covenant (promise) community called the church. Then God sends the church out into the world to accomplish his mission. That means the church is God's creation—not man's.
Just as the Father sends the Son, and the Father and Son send the Spirit, so the Father, Son and Holy Spirit send you out into the world (John 20:19-23). You are sent into your homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, farms, schools, and everyday lives to be Christ for the sake of the world. The Spirit gives you a diversity of gifts to accomplish his mission. Witnessing in both word and deed is your work as disciples who follow Jesus (Acts 1:8; Genesis 12:1-3).
The church is wherever the people of God gather together to hear the Word and receive the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. As Martin Luther wrote, "The Holy Spirit calls, gathers and enlightens the whole Christian Church on earth, keeping it united with Jesus Christ in one true faith."
The church is not a building—it is the body of Christ sent into the world to be his hands and feet. Don't go to church. Be the church.
A sacrament is a gift given to us from God. We practice two sacraments: Baptism and the Lord's Supper (Holy Communion) as these were the only sacraments commanded by Christ himself. A Sacrament contains three parts: it is commanded by Christ (take and eat; go and baptize), it contains a promise, and the promise is joined to a visible element or "stuff"—bread, wine, water.
Through baptism we are cleansed and become children of God. Baptism works forgiveness of sins, delivers us from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe, as the words and promises of God declare (John 3:3-5; Matthew 3:11; Acts 2:28-39). It is not the water that does this, but the Word of God and faith, which trusts God's promises. Without the Word of God, the water is simply water. But with the Word of God it is baptism—a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration by the Holy Spirit.
In the Lord's Supper, we believe and confess that Jesus is truly present in the bread and the wine—"this is my body; this is my blood." Jesus gives us his very self. In a sense, you are what you eat! Whoever trusts these words also receives the forgiveness of sins. Hear the words of Christ, "Given, and shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation (John 3:16-18).
New Covenant Community
God had created Israel to be a covenant community centered around him. Because Jesus’ life, death and resurrection save us from slavery to sin, death and the devil, therefore we love and serve one another as a new covenant community (circle of people holding hands) centered on Jesus (glorified Jesus)—the church, the body of Christ. We don’t go to church—we are the church! Jesus gives this community the gifts of the Holy Spirit (dove), baptism (water drop) and communion (bread and cup) as tangible signs of the Kingdom of God and Christ’s presence with us as we anticipate his final appearing. Jesus instructs us in the ways of discipleship so that our life together will be a witness to God’s grace, goodness, love and wisdom to attract other people to God. (Image copyright Crossways International.)