Do you feel you can follow Jesus all on your own? Are you tired of bad experiences at church? Can there be a better way? Does the church even matter today? I want to help you understand and help the church (especially if it’s a messy church).
What is the Church?
The Bible uses several analogies for the church. We can start with the church being the body of Christ. So, ideally, the church looks just like Jesus. He is the head, we are the body and we carry out the work of Jesus in the world. We examine all that Jesus did in his ministry and continue those things at the direction of the head!
The church is also the bride of Christ. We are to be captivated by Jesus! Our lives, our hopes and our futures focus on him. We are not to be looking around for ‘greener pastures.’ As the bride of Christ, we desperately want to please him in all we think, say and do!
The church is not limited to one group, one tribe, one denomination, one tradition but is all believers everywhere. There is a reason we have separate groups and it can be healthy for things to be this way. Ultimately, we will all be united perfectly.
The church is also a local body of believers. In a very practical way, we have gathered into small groups of believers and traditionally call it the church. While the church is not a building, we meet in a building and frequently call that building the church.
We must understand that the church belongs to Jesus and not to us. When we say my church or our church we use that phrase as an expression of identification and not ownership.
What is the Function of the Church?
Jesus gave his disciples a single mission — to make disciples. There are four basic elements to disciple making:
Evangelism is sharing the good news of Jesus with the world. It is proclaiming that God loves everyone and Jesus died for their sins. Evangelism is an invitation to accept and participate in the infinite love of God.
Teaching is the ongoing revelation of God’s truth and the application of that truth to the life of the follower of Jesus. It is a continuous process that helps us mature as followers, become more like Jesus and equips us for everything we face in life.
Fellowship helps us build relationships with other followers. We find strength in numbers and great encouragement. There are scores of commandments in the New Testament about how we are to encourage, strengthen, love, forgive and care for one another. We need to be in fellowship to carry these things out!
Worship directs our focus to God. He alone is awesome and worthy of worship. As followers of Jesus, we are continually grateful for his power and glory. We are continually thankful for his mercy and grace and the new life we have in Jesus.
Why the church matters
We need the church for spiritual vitality. Our participation in the church brings joy and strength and encouragement into our walk with Jesus. When we are engaged in the work and life of the church, it helps us keep our focus where it needs to be.
The church brings light into the world. That light has two effects. It exposes darkness and sin. When that happens persecution often follows. The ridicule you experience as a follower of Jesus is because of this light and the effect it has on people who are engaged and committed to a lifestyle of sin and darkness! That light also exposes spiritual truth which brings conviction and eventually repentance. So we must let the light shine!
The church brings life into the world. The Bible describes people being dead in sin. When spiritual truth comes life comes with it. The church is the bearer of spiritual truth. We bring life to those dying from sin. There is no greater need among mankind.
The church expresses the love of God for the world. We are the very hands and feet of Jesus dispensing love to a lonely, damaged and despairing world.
Finally, the church is a haven and a well filled with encouragement, comfort, peace and joy. It is a place of spiritual growth and health.
While that all sounds good and is ideal, what about a messy church. The words that I have used to describe the church are not always seen in a local church! What do you do when you are in that environment? Here are five things you should do (and none of them are ‘leave’):
Pray. Ask God to do what only he can do. Pray for revival. Many churches need prayer for transformation. Pray for God’s presence to sweep away everything contrary to his will. Pray that his kingdom would come and his will would be done. And, if you can, find someone to pray with you.
Encourage the pastor. If the church is a mess, the pastor will know it and need extra encouragement. Don’t criticize, lift him (or her) up with your words! Always be positive and work hard to keep your pastor strong and going forward!
Be a positive influence. Keep your conversations positive and free from gossip. Be a source of mercy and grace. Let God’s love flow through your life!
Model transparency. In other words, don’t be a hypocrite. If you are struggling, admit it. Be honest. Live a life of integrity in front of everyone.
Model Christlikeness. Be like Jesus (this takes much prayer)! In all things, follow Jesus. This means much prayer, time in the Word and patience. It means you continually allow God’s mercy and grace flow through your life.
Today, I ask you to join me in praying for revival in the church in America. I know some of my readers live outside the United States and I would encourage you to pray for revival in your country as well. The American church is in a deep malaise. There are fires of revival beginning to start up in various places but we are far from where we need to be!
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