My friend, Lance (founder of Legacy dad), penned this blog post, "Dear Church, Are We Off Course?" in which he spoke from the heart and from some frustration and pure honesty with issues in today's church in the free world, The United States of America. If you haven't read it or have, I encourage you to read it again and then ponder to yourself to ask what you see in your church and where are we going. In Ephesians 5:25 we read are "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her", which applies to those whom Christ died for. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said that "I will build my church." In the Old Testament they reference to an assembly of people who worshiped God. The Greek word, Ekklesia, is a term that is translated as church, which simply means assembly. The Church is both local and universal. The church is both visible and invisible. It is not defined as brick and mortar. In metaphors in the New Testament, the Church is referenced as "an olive tree (Romans 11:17-24), a field of crops (1 Corinthians 3:6-9), a building (1 Cor. 3:9) and a harvest (Matthew 13:1-30 and John 4:35). The Church is a group of new priests, holy believers (that is you and I who are set apart for Him).
Some reasons why we need the church (found in Scripture):
- The church is for a community of believers (others known as a family) that come together to worship God
- The church is there to nurture its members. In Colossians 1:28 we are to understand that the church is there to "present every man mature in Christ".
- The church is there for evangelism and Mercy - we are to go unto all the earth and make disciples (not just fans) of Jesus Christ
- The church is called to remember and practice the Sacraments (Baptism and Communion)
- The church is there to preach the Word (hear it and listen to it and to live it). There is reference to this with Jesus talking to Peter in Matthew 18 (bind and loosen).
- In practical terms, the church should be a hospital (always there to help, that is, to comfort and encourage and urge each of its members to live a life worthy of Jesus Christ)
- The church is there to discipline (Matthew 18)
I was very moved by this post from Lance that I started asking fellow Elders to read it and to comment back to me on it. I asked some of my Pastors' their thoughts on this and to give us feedback on it. One Pastor actually wrote back to me in regards to Lance's post. This pastor has been both an encouragement to me (as he officiated my father's funeral) and a mentor. In replying back to me he said that Lance has asked some great questions that we need to continue to ask ourselves and we should always be evaluating.
When we appoint Elders and Deacons we should be selecting leaders based on gifting and their fruit (reference Galatians 5). However, the Pastor told me, that we need to be careful in making broad assumptions - meaning sometimes a person's profession/generosity are examples of gifting that need to be included in leadership.
Lance is spot on in discipleship. I will go onto to say that if a church's discipleship "program" (or model or way whatever you call it) is not built upon the word in creating overseers/leaders/lay leaders, then I would be confident to say that church's model is flawed both Biblically and internally. I would go further to say that we have a lot of "head knowledge" in the American church but not all have connected the head to the heart. There are too many religious (theologians) and not enough disciples!
One caution for us to be quick to judge the Church is to look all over and make broad brush assumptions about the whole. The real life changes happen in a man/woman or child's life when they let go to self and let God and His Spirit move us to where He wants us to be. The old saying applies, "Don't be quick to judge a man, until you walk a mile in that man's shoes." This could mean that maybe he is right where God wants him to be. The other side of this coin is that maybe, just maybe, a lot of these men have never been mentored or discipled the way that God calls us to disciple. In 1 Corinthians 3:5-9, you read that our job is to plant seeds and water seeds, after that, it's God's job to grow and by how much He grows each of them. We should be careful to deceive ourselves that every person is going to reach the level of sanctification continuum that we think is appropriate. The Church's economy is to take care of those in need from within and to reach outward to those who do not know Christ and to grow those who come to know Him.
As far as those of us that are in the church versus those of us that are out of the church, the Pastor friend of mine and I would both agree that there are two scales of economy here to consider: 1) Those of us that are in Christ have a different understanding - a biblical economy and understanding then those who are outside the church and have a completely different set of economies. The world's view versus the Christian view.
The "American" church compared to all other churches in the world will not always look the same. There are some non-negotiable qualities that should be identified in God's Pure Church:
- Solo Scriptura
- Biblical Doctrine (the right preaching of the Word)
- The Church preaches the Word
- The Church is accountable the Word
- The Right use of Church Discipline
- Genuine Worship (Lyrics that point and are based on the Word)
- Effective Prayer
- Effective Witness
- Effective Fellowship
- Biblical Church Government
- Spiritual power in Ministry (being the hands and feet the body of believers and to the world around it)
- Personal holiness of life among its members
- Care for the poor
- Love for Christ
The "American" church does come under fire because, at times, we can make it about ourselves and our legacy instead of pointing those from within and from the outside to Christ (this needs to be repented of). Also, climate can play a big deal in this. For instance, as I am writing this in the Midwest there is rain and freezing rain and then there is cold temps and in climate weather, whereas in other places of the world they are not bound by this. In other places of the world, Christianity is illegal and a crime which is punishable by death so they need to be hidden in home churches and the like. For instance, my Pastor friend says that you have a church building in Ethiopia but no heat (obviously not needed) but if you go to the same building in the Midwest during the dead of winter - it would not be that ideal to hear God's word under such harsh circumstances.
Lance said in this his post, "It’s not that I’m angry or even frustrated, I just long in my heart to find Christian leaders and other men who actually live their lives both in public and in private – congruent with the faith they profess." My pastor's comment to this was "Amen. When our actions match our beliefs, we have integrity."
For me, it is tough, because one of my gifting's is discernment. For someone like me, this is not always a good thing, because I can be very direct and shoot straight from the hip. That being said, I need to continually pray for wisdom in when to act on this discernment or when to wait on God to act or to find that He may have someone else in mind to act. This brings me to the point that I can find myself being very critical of church pastors and leaders and overseers, including myself. That is, to say, that I am a church leader (both an Elder and leader of Men's Ministries). Do I always get it right? The answer is clearly no, because I am a sinner.
Here is a clue for you, believer, to use. When finding a church or if you are currently in your church and Lance's post has hit a nerve or is causing you discomfort in that some of his talking points have hit the mark, then my encouragement to you is to do some things about it:
- Read God's Word
- Walk with other men (and if you are a woman walk with other women) and be open, honest and transparent and definitely in the Word.
- Humbly talk to your leaders - that is, don't tell them the way that you want it to be, ask them what they think Scripture says on this matter
- Don't panic - God's got this - Each one of your leaders will give an account and will be responsible for what they have done, are doing and will continue to do. We read this in Hebrews 13:17: "Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God. Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery. Why would you want to make things harder for them?"
My church is a hospital, a place to grow and a place to learn. My church is full of sinners that are saved by grace. I am not sure if all of its members (or attenders) are truly born again Christians. That is up to our leaders to discern and to pray through and to comfort, encourage and urge the body to live a life worthy of Jesus Christ. All this being said, does my church and its leaders make mistakes? The answer is yes (remember that we are all sinners). BUT when we error on the side of grace and love and mercy, that is, forgive as we have been forgiven, we can come together and reason and in a humble and biblical approach we can see God's will reign in all that we do.
Why do we need the Church? Because we are a family of believers. Each of us that are born again ,whether we like it or not, are now brothers and sisters in Christ. We are called to love one another. To encourage each other, to comfort each other and to urge each other to live a life worthy of Christ. We need the Church because we need to worship God together and hear His word together and to be the hands and feet together. We are family!
Sources: The Bible. Systematic Theology (Wayne Grudem).