I was recently asked the question, “Why does Church matter? Why do you believe meeting together is biblical? Do you believe in Jail House religion?”
The person asking these questions claimed to be a Christian but wouldn’t fellowship with other Christians due to his believe of Jail House Religion. My response was immediate as I pointed out that yes, Jail House Religion does exist but not with everybody and that the purpose of meeting together as believers is to glorify God.
I love the verse in Acts 2 which I consider the purpose statement for the church. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42 According to this verse, the purposes/activities of the church should be teaching biblical doctrine, providing a place of fellowship for believers, observing the Lord’s Supper, and praying.
It is important that believers attend church, regardless of all the excuses that are made for not attending church. It is important so that we can be grounded in our faith by the teaching of biblical doctrine. It is important to regularly be in a place of fellowship, where Christians can be devoted to one another and honor one another (Romans 12:10), instruct one another (Romans 15:14), be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32), encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and most importantly, love one another (1 John 3:11). It is also important that believers observe the Lord’s Supper together, remembering Christ’s death and shed blood on our behalf.
The last purpose of the church mentioned in Acts 2:42 is prayer. The church is to be a place that promotes prayer, teaches prayer, and practices prayer. Philippians 4:6-7 encourages us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The concept of Jail House Religion also exists outside of the prison walls. Our churches sadly are full with people who only attend church to get what they need from God but live their daily lives as if God doesn’t exist. Is that an excuse for not attending Church? Is that an excuse for not fellowshipping with other Christians? NO! When the church gathers and teaches biblical doctrine, provides a place of fellowship for believers, observes the Lord’s Supper, and prays, God is glorified and you will be quickened in your faith.
Another commission given to the church is proclaiming the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ, In Matthew 28: 18-20, Jesus commissioned His disciples with these words, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The church is called to be faithful in sharing the gospel through word and deed. The church is to be a “lighthouse” in the community, pointing people toward our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is why I believe as Christians we need to be all about church growth and I believe prisons are a great place for that to happen! We need to set aside the negativity that is attached to prisons and begin planting churches behind the walls of prison! Churches that will reproduce themselves! Churches that both promote the gospel and prepare its members to proclaim the gospel! Churches that will last long after you have left. That is my purpose in ministry! Will it be yours too?
By Chaplain Miller