“For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.… Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”
1 Corinthians 3:9-11, 16, 17 ESV
WHILE SOME DEAD CHURCHES HAVE CONCLUDED THE ONLY WAY TO GROW IS TO COMPROMISE THE TRUTH, HEALTHY BIBLICAL CHURCHES ARE THRIVING. When we know who we are and whose we are, the church flourishes. Though many rejected Jesus, crowds flocked to him. Though, sadly, many will be lost; the good news in Jesus Christ is that many will be saved!
People today are seeking the way, truth, life, and love of Jesus just as they have for centuries. As in all cultures and times, people can see through the latest trends. They’re looking for something real. Real faith will always be relevant. A genuine, healthy, biblical church can be relevant yet counter-cultural. I do not mean traditional, but I do mean biblical. We do not have to superficially attempt to reflect modern society to attract seekers. But we must be willing to let go of decades-old traditions and thoughtfully change in matters of liberty. The light of Jesus Christ will draw seekers to authentic believers across cultural, racial, and socioeconomic boundaries.
I have attempted to illustrate the biblical model for the church here.
The identity of the church is the people of God (Hebrews 8:10).
The vision of the church is God with his people for eternity in heaven (Revelation 21).
The purpose of the church is to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
The mission of the church is to carry the good news to lost and hurting people who desperately need to know the Lord (Matthew 28:18-20).
The values of the church are found in the eternal truth of God’s word (1 Timothy 3:15).
The foundation of the church is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11).
In my observation, much conflict, division, and stagnation in the church comes from a failure to understand our identity, vision, purpose, mission, and values. In other words, we don’t know the pattern God gave in scripture. We know we’re supposed to worship, evangelize, and fellowship, but how does it all fit together? What’s most important? How should we prioritize our limited resources?
How can we enthusiastically be the people of God and reach seekers if we don’t even know what that really means?
Why should seekers join us?
Who will they become, what will they do, and why will they do it once they join?
Some churches forget our upward purpose, our inward identity, our outward mission, and our foundation of Jesus Christ. When this happens, the result is deformed “Frankenstein churches” like the following…
1. The worship becomes entertainment, or flippant, or something other than a sacred offering to God from our best.
2. The preaching becomes the most important focus of the budget and congregational gatherings.
3. The building and other expediencies consume our resources.
4. The lost are forgotten while the church acts like a private “members only” club.
5. Community outreach becomes the main goal of the church while quality worship, education, and fellowship are neglected.
6. Resources and programs are added that have nothing to do with the purpose and mission of the church.
7. The truth is silenced and substituted for stories, fluffy messages, and pop-Christianity.
8. Truth (law) becomes an idol and relationship with God and believers is forgotten as legalists ruthlessly impose opinions and hedges.
9. American isolation and busy schedules preclude real family fellowship and hospitality.
10. The foundation of Jesus Christ is replaced with self-serving or politically correct agendas.
11. The vision of being in heaven with God is lost to materialism, social activities, or divisiveness.
12. Preachers do the elder work, elders do the deacon work, deacons do what every member should do, and members do little to nothing.
13. The church is viewed as an organization, not an organism, as corporate jargon and operational efficiency suck the life out of a dynamic group of people.
14. The church centers around one celebrity personality and everything else is diminished.
15. The church centers around money, status, numbers, and physical tokens of outward “success.”
16. Various additional governing bodies or roles are added to “improve” upon the simple biblical model and subsequently compromise its original, autonomous function.
17. The role of men and women are made identical in contrast to the Holy Spirit’s designation of different but equal which leads to church and family dysfunction.
18. The church acts as a museum for the saints instead of as a hospital for the broken. Members wear masks portraying how they want to be perceived instead of feeling safe to be vulnerable and lean on one another for confession, encouragement, and accountability as an intimate family.
There is no perfect church on earth. None of us perfectly model Christianity, and no group of believers perfectly models the church. Even the churches in the New Testament struggled with error, immorality, carnality, and other serious flaws–and they had the Apostles! That’s why Jesus’ blood was necessary to purchase the church, a group of sinful believers. What a beautiful, sacred marriage is that of Christ and the church! The church is far from perfect, but because of Jesus we are assured that the church shall never fail (Matthew 16:18). And we look with hopeful longing to that day when we shall finally be presented to the bridegroom without blemish.
Does your church follow the New Testament pattern?
Would you like to find a church that does? Contact me here.
The church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord;
She is His new creation
By water and the word.
From heav’n he came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her
And for her life He died.
Elect from every nation,
Yet one o’er all the earth;
Her charter of salvation,
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food
And to one hope she presses,
With every grace endued.
‘Mid toil and tribulation,
And tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation
Of peace forevermore,
Till, with the vision glorious,
Her longing eyes are blest,
And the great church victorious
Shall be the church at rest.
SAMUEL J. STONE (1866)