For too many, “Church” has become a verb designating an activity, at a fixed location, which requires regular attention. In this, we are no different from previous generations. Seeing the church as the Lord describes it requires a perspective not portrayed or promoted in our culture.
The church exists to glorify God throughout all the generations (Eph. 3:21). The church is the body of Christ, who is its Savior and head (Eph. 5:23). It functions as the body of Christ, and it is subject to Christ Jesus, its head. That means that the world does not have the right to define the church in any way or determine its role. Nor do we, as Christians, have the liberty to define its role.
That also means that we do not have the liberty to define our role in the church, nor do we have the freedom to limit our role in the church. “Church” has undergone a realignment, whereby it often ceases to fulfill its intended purpose in order to act as an agent of change for a social agenda or offer health care or emotional care for masses. While individuals in the church have freedom to work for such purposes, those are not responsibilities of the local congregation. Our purpose remains unchanged: to preach the gospel (Mk. 16:15,16), to support the truth (1 Tim. 3:15), to build up the body of Christ by equipping the saints (Eph. 4:12), and to encourage one another in the faith (Heb. 10:24,25). None of these activities can be accomplished within the confines of a single worship assembly on Sunday morning. Nor can they be fulfilled by a token few within the local body.
Our culture has been wildly successful in selling such false concepts to the Christian community at large. We might even be tempted to think that this is the bane of our age – it isn’t. The New Testament letters have much to say about the importance of every individual Christian doing his or her part every day! Clearly, the brethren of the first century struggled with the same issues!
We have an identity crisis in the church that manifests itself in a couple of ways. On the one hand, this identity crisis is seen in the church’s abandonment of its ordained roles. That means that it is possible for a church to enjoy the blessing of having all of its members fully engaged and involved in its pursuits – but the pursuits are not what the head has ordained. Thus, the church in that location does not glorify God.
On the other hand, the crisis is manifested in its individual members’ forgetting that they have an identity to the Lord ONLY IN the church. It is possible, and all too often the case, that the local church has not lost sight of its God-given purpose. Sound teaching is still heard in its pulpit, and advancing the cause of Christ is still its goal; but many of its individual members see their role as participating in a worship assembly once a week. That church also does not glorify God.
Two soul-searching questions ought to be answered by each member of the local church. First, do I know what the Bible says about the purposes of the church? If I don’t know what those are, I can’t glorify God in my Christian walk. Second, do I do my part every day to promote the purposes of the church? If I know the right answers but don’t commit my energy, my money, and my faith toward that purpose, I cannot glorify God.
Church isn’t a verb that is put into action one day a week, nor is it a place where I go once a week. May we overcome the identity crises that Satan hopes to afflict us with, by staying in His word and in His service.
Keep studying! DC Brown ©2013