CHURCH: What Is It Good For (Part 2)

Because I am a Pastor, you probably surmise that I really like church and that I am inherently “pro-church”.  Generally, that would be a true statement. However, and that is with a capital H, I am well aware that church – even a healthy church – can suddenly and without warning turn toxic.  Why you might ask? Isn’t Jesus the head over all things concerning the church? Yes, indeed, He is.  But those of us who fail to realize that we are mere humans often forget that essential fact.  Even worse, those who believe themselves to be “God’s gift to the church” (or the human race, for that matter) can and often do become toxic agents within a body of believers. Those who somehow “maneuver” themselves into positions of influence and power eventually become of agents of much harm and confusion.

People need people.  We all need people.  We typically find significant relationships through the organizations we are a part of. Church is an organization where wonderful relationships can form. However, the church is also an organism, and organisms inherently have problems and upheaval from time to time. At times certain members or parts of an organism become unhealthy and need healing, discipline and restoration. Trust me when I tell you that serving as the pastor of a local church can be a dangerous occupation.  There are seasons of abundance when you feel you are truly loved by the people you lead. Then there are seasons when you are certain that you are loved but not liked so much anymore.  Truth be told, there are periods when people you’ve loved much and been blessed by their appreciation greatly suddenly turn and, seemingly, become your mortal enemies.

Let me hasten to say, even in the most negative relationships, some level of resolution and peace can be found.  I merely reference the above to let you know that leading a flock of God’s “sheep” is not a perpetual stroll along streets of gold.  Why should it be?  God became flesh and walked among us.  He is known in the Bible as the “good” Shepherd.  He functionally served as a “shepherd” here on earth for three years.  In the early to mid-stages of His “ministry”, He had throngs of loving and loyal followers.  By the end of His days of physically leading the church here on the planet, He was down to a small group of disappointed and demoralized onlookers. Out of that number, there seems to have only been a few faithful followers prepared to go the distance with Him.  Even they were on the brink of dispersion to their former lives.

The intensity of the spiritual warfare involved in following Christ, dying to self and living for eternity can exhaust or demoralize the heartiest of brave soldiers. Ah – perhaps that is the secret.  The true church is not an assemblage of sight-seeing spectators! The true church is an army at war.  We are fighting a notable, yet largely unseen foe.  He is a master strategist of doom, gloom and dissension.  Our Savior showed us the way we would have to do life if we are to be successful as followers of Christ.  We are going to have to die to ourselves in order to live unto God.  We are going to have to live a sacrificial life of love, service and labor as unto the Lord rather than the praises of men. Translated, this means that we should not expect a life with lots of applause and gratuitous praise.  We should not expect an immediate or even “fair” return on the investment involved in living for Jesus in this organism called “church”. Furthermore, as long as we are alive, we remain active duty soldiers at war against the powers of darkness. Soldiers sacrifice for the good of the cause and for the sake of others.

THAT-MY FRIEND-IS WHAT BEING THE CHURCH IS REALLY ABOUT!

Don’t be scared off by this. There is no more exciting, rewarding and fulfilling life than being a follower of Christ in active duty as a part of HIS church. I’ll have more next time!    

PC (Pastor Chris)

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CHURCH: What Is It Good For?

Who needs church?  What good does “going to church” do?  Why bother anyway?  All Christians are hypocrites – at least most of the ones you know may be!  Let me address that last statement from the outset of this blog series.  The word “hypocrite” has a variety of meanings.  The most damning of definitions carries the idea of being fake or disingenuous.  It is characterized by words like charlatan, fraud, or phony.  A more gracious depiction carries the idea of a person who is merely “an actor on a stage”.  

There is no doubt that all “Christians” fall short of the ideals lived out by Jesus Himself.  We may even fall far short of what was modeled by the earliest post-resurrection Christians.   However, I do not necessarily think so.  The Bible never paints such an idyllic portrait of people of faith.  They are shown to have every possible human frailty, communication breakdown, insincerity and other negative quality you could name as characteristic of our 21st century church group dynamics.

People are human and flawed. We were created in the image of God; but through the rebellion of our “fore-parents”, Adam and Eve, the sin nature holds a lot of power within us.  Relationships within the church are as far from perfect as in any other group of people attempting to do life together.

But, you might say, Luke describes them as “unified and compassionately committed to one another.” (see Acts 2:40-47)  This is true. They came together in a common bond of faith.  They were diligent to convene together, to break bread in fellowship with one another.  They were also prone to share generously as they took care of one another during the crisis stages of first century Christianity.  However, if you seek to fully understand Bible history, you will catch a more transparent understanding of the rest of the story.

These early saints were not always so “saintly” in their interactions with one another.  The Bible honestly and openly describes the reality which made up their lives together. They experienced every kind of controversy you can think of.  Just point to any actual events you have been a part of or heard about as it relates to the “church” world today, and you will find parallels in the New Testament.  The historical record of Acts pulls no punches.  Many of the adjustments inserted into the developing communities of Christian faith came about through hardships, misunderstandings and inequitable behaviors toward one another in less than Spirit-led interaction.  However, Jesus was still Lord and God remained committed to the investment of trust He placed upon the Body of Christ.

Jesus is still for the church. He is for her because she is His bride. He knows how to love, disciple and empower the church.  He will never give up on the church because God hates divorce.  He is in the process of the restoration of His church, and I am glad to be a part of it!

What Are We Expecting When We Come Together

In the world we live in, meetings are a common factor. Everyone has meetings to be attended in virtually every arena of commitment they are involved in. Certainly “church” is no different. In fact, churches are notorious for calling people together for a lot of meetings. Some meetings are informational. Some are inspirational. Many meetings are convened so a small core of leaders can strategize an activity, event or volunteer team assignment. Such meetings are designed to facilitate and enhance the ministry of the church.

As the Pastor of a thriving and vibrant local church here in the upper Midwest, I have made certain that we have a wide range of ministry groups, core team leadership strategy sessions, inspirational gatherings, task force committees, and more. The objective of any gathering at our church is to facilitate the ministry of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit in the mission of challenging, inspiring and impacting people to be changed, so that they will become “change agents” in our world for the glory of God.

Meetings are necessary—church services, prayer meetings, small groups, Bible studies, work projects, outreach initiatives, corporate board meetings, elder’s meetings, worship rehearsals, staff meetings ….! Trust me; the list could go on forever. We pastors do know how to convene meetings. Recently, during a period of unexpected transition which created a major change of direction for our ministry—I felt led by the Spirit of the Lord to redress our mission statement. My goal was to clarify the kind of environmental impact and inspirational transformation that I believe God looks for when we gather in HIS name. I’ve defined that expectation with five 2 word descriptions.

When we meet for any reason at Open Bible Fellowship, I have asked God that through the presence, power and inspiration of HIS Holy Spirit, our people and their guests (HIS CHURCH) experience the following dynamics. We come together with the hope and faith that when we gather in His name one or more of the following will occur in the lives of those who are present and participating with us in faith.

Encountering God – Matthew 6:25-34
Experiencing Scripture – James 1:21-27
Equipping Saints – Ephesians 4:12-11-12
Empowering People – Acts 19:1-6
Edifying Believers – Ephesians 4:11

I believe that worship and faith are dynamic activities. I believe that God is fully alive in our universe and our world today. I believe that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8). What God did in the early church, He has always done and is still doing today. God is Alive. Jesus is Lord! The Holy Spirit is among us! Come on “church”, let’s receive all that God has given us in Christ so that we can truly be all that we can be and do all that we are called to do!

The WORD of God – believe it!
The WAY of God – walk in it!
The POWER of God – submit to it!
The PURPOSE of God – pursue it!
The PEACE of God – embrace it!
The CONVICTION of God – be changed by it!