Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Jesus Driven Church

Church has become many things to many people.  On one hand, it is for many a place to join with fellow believers for worship, Bible study, and prayer.  For others, church is not much more than a social club where they spend time with friends.  For others, it is a place they go to out of tradition where they associate themselves as Christians but never really follow Jesus as Lord.  For some it is a place where they bring their friends to hear the Gospel message and that church is some kind of community outreach.  And for many it is some combination of all.  Today I want to talk about what the Bible says the purpose of the church is.  We will start in Ephesians as that is where we find the calling for the leader of the church, that being the pastor.
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.  Ephesians 4:11-16 NKJV
The purpose of pastors and teachers are spelled out in this passage.  They are for "the edifying of the body of Christ."  If pastors and teachers (the leaders of the church) have the charge to edify the body of Christ then the purpose of the church is to edify the body of Christ.  Evangelists have the calling to go out and preach the Gospel to the world, the pastors and teachers have the calling to teach those already in the faith in the things of the faith.  Some pastors teach the same gospel message each and every week to the same people who already know and accept the gospel message.  And while the message of Christ crucified is the most wonderful message in the world, rehashing it week after week never getting into the meat of Scripture leads to perpetual spiritual babies.  They know they are Christians, but they are never taught what that means for their lives and therefore they never grow.  Pastors and teachers have the duty and calling to edify the body of Christ.  They continue the work of the evangelist who is charged to bringing the gospel message to the world.  While some men may be gifted as both pastors and evangelists they must maintain their specific calling in whatever office they are functioning at the time.  To a church body, the message needs to be about growing in Christ.  To the unsaved world, the message must be the gospel message. 

The purpose of growing the members of the church spiritually is so that they are solidly grounded in the true doctrines of Christ.  Immature Christians are easily swayed by false doctrine based in a shallow and out-of-context reading of Scripture or with clever twists of what the Bible says.  They fall into error and as a result they fall away from God.  A pastor must ground his church in the whole counsel of God and the essential doctrines of Christ to keep error from infiltrating his church.  The result of a faithful pastor will be a church unified in the true doctrines of Christ. 

Now let us go through some specific features a healthy church will have.

It is a church that functions together as a body where each knows his or her place and part. 
For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
The church is the body of Christ. We are all given different callings and gifts and our own roles to play in the body  In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul speaks of this concept again where he emphasizes that each part is important and needs to function according to its purpose.  God chooses what callings and gifts we have and He determines what role we play in the body of Christ.  A foot can not decide to become a tongue much like an evangelist can not decide to become a pastor.  A foot is not equipped to be a tongue and would therefore not make a very good tongue at all.  An evangelists is not gifted to be a pastor and so would not make a very good pastor.  But a foot makes a wonderful foot and is extremely important to the body as a whole just as an evangelists makes a really wonderful evangelist and is extremely important to the body of Christ as a whole.  We need to have that same heart whatever the Lord calls us to be.  Striving to become something God has not called or gifted you to be hurts the body of Christ in that whatever function you were made to perform is not being done and you are doing a poor job at whatever function you have usurped.  What is also unhealthy is an arrogance at what role God has given you.  All parts are important and chosen by God according to His purposes and not due to any talents you think you may have.  There is no place for arrogance.  A healthy body of Christ is one where the members know and fill their roles and where each member respects and appreciates the roles filled by others. 

It is a church full of love for one another. 
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."  John 13:34-35 NKJV
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.  Colossians 3:12-15 NKJV
A proof of us being followers of Jesus is our love for one another.  The church today is filled with too much gossip, trash talk, talking behind each others backs, insults, and competition. We need to bear one anthers burdens, not add to them.  We need to comfort one other when needed, challenge one another when needed, and encourage one another when needed.  Even when we correct each other, it must be in love.  Our love for each other is a witness to the world of our love for Jesus.  A healthy church is one where the members of the body have and show Christ's love for one another. 

It is a church where each member is fully grounded in God's word and where the whole counsel of God is taught. 
But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.  Titus 2:1-8 NKJV
Paul is exhorting Titus here in how to lead the church he was sent to.  He is told to teach sound doctrine and for very good reason.  It is the sound doctrine given by the whole counsel of God to teaches us how to live godly lives.  It is clear here that sound doctrine taught and learned leads to righteous living.  A pastor is also called to not just teach sound doctrine but also to live it as an example.  A healthy church is one where the whole counsel of God is rightly divided so that the doctrines of Christ can be taught and learned.  A pastor must teach and be an example of righteous living so that the rest of the church can learn and follow. 

A church is a place that is welcoming to all, regardless of race or social status. 
My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, "You sit here in a good place," and say to the poor man, "You stand there," or, "Sit here at my footstool," have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?
Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.  Colossians 3:9-11 NKJV
These passages are clear.  We are not to show partiality for any reason related to race, social status, or gender.  We all have the same inheritance in Christ.  We are all one in Christ.  A healthy church is one that is not racist or elitist.  A healthy church is welcoming and loving to all irregardless of race, gender, or social class. 

It is a church where members are accountable to one another and where sin is dealt with and if necessary cast out. 
"Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.' And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17 NKJV
We have the responsibility of calling each other out on our sin.  We also have the responsibility to bring that sin before others then before the leadership if the sinner remains unrepentant.  The pastor then has the responsibility to make that member leave the fellowship if he or she refuses to repent.  We learn elsewhere in Scripture that this system only works if we are clean from sin ourselves.  A healthy church is one where the members do not tolerate sin in their own lives and the church does not tolerate unrepentant sin to remain in its midst. 

A church is a body of believers to come together for teaching, worship, and prayer. 
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.  Colossians 3:16 NKJV
Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.  James 5:16 NKJV
Church is where we come together to pray, worship, and learn.  We learn through each other and from our pastors.  We worship the Lord in song.  We pray for each other according to our needs.  A healthy church is a church full of teaching, praying, and worship. 

A church is a place where things are done orderly.
For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. 1 Corinthians 14:33 NKJV
Let all things be done decently and in order. 1 Corinthians 14:40 NKJV
I know that some disagree with me on this point.  I do not see how when it is so clear in Scripture. A church should be orderly.  The rest of this passage speaks regarding not using tongues when there is no interpreter and even then only a couple at a time.  I do not see how people can not see how it applies to church when it specifically states "as in all the churches of the saints" and "Let all things be done decently and in order."  All things means all things.  It is not most, it is not all except worship, it is not all except when you feel the Spirit moving you, it is all.  There are no exceptions.  In the setting of a church service, in a healthy church, all things will be done decently and in order. 

And here we have what all those attributes of a healthy church lead to. A church is not an outreach, it is for fellowship, support, training, prayer, and worship.  Those are the purposes of the church.  I know that nowadays many people believe that a church is an outreach, but that is not the case. While the unsaved are welcome to visit, they are not to be part of the body.  While the unsaved may wander in and hear the Gospel, it is not the primary purpose of the church.  The church is a gathering of believers for the ultimate purpose of growing and maturing them as they find and fulfill their calling from God.  Many believe that seminaries are for the training of the ministry.  That is not the Biblical model or example.  The example in the Bible is that we all have a calling and a purpose in the body of Christ and that training occurs in our churches. 
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.  Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV
It is clear from that passage that we gather as believers to stir each other up for good works, love, and exhortation.  We are to be trained by the teaching and example of our church leaders and in turn be an example to the younger members of the church.  We are to know our place in the body of Christ and fulfill that ministry given to us by God.  We are to love and pray for one another.  We are to worship our Lord together.  And like the example of a human body where everything works in an intricate order so are we to behave as a church body.  A healthy church will be all those things. 

Finally, we have the last attribute of a healthy church. That church will spread.  A healthy church will have a pastor-teacher who as part of his ministry raises up other pastors and teachers as well as evangelists, worship leaders, and much much more.  Those evangelists will go out and reach new people for Christ.  Those pastor-teachers will go out and start new churches.  Those worship leaders will lead another body of believers in the Worship of our God.  A healthy church will spread also through the lives of its members in that those members will be the light and salt of the earth living righteously for God and sharing their faith through words and actions at every opportunity.  Their witness will be in the very lives they live outside of church.  

I guess, in the end, a church is an outreach only we just confuse what an outreach really is.  While we gather inwardly for worship, training, fellowship, and support, we reach outwardly in our lives in the world to reach others for Christ. Pastors train your flock for the work of the Lord.  Christians understand that outreach is not inviting your unsaved neighbor to church to hear the Gospel, but it is learning the Gospel in church and bringing it to your neighbor.  It is not about bringing your unsaved family member to church to see the example of other Christians, but it for you to learn to be that example at church and be that example to them where they are.  We do not bring others into church to meet Jesus but we bring Jesus to them with the witness of our lives.  In other words, the church is not the outreach, you are.  The church is there for training you to do that work.
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;  1 Peter 2:9 NKJV

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