Thursday, July 10, 2014

What is the Meaning and Purpose of Your Church?

   In today's world, there are more "Christian church" denominations and sections than can be counted. So many of these denominations claim that they have the truth, are the most modern, present the easiest ways to understand the Bible, have the "true" translation of scripture, or even just claim to serve the best coffee around. And in our current world that we live in, these are all deemed as viable options by which we should determine what church is the best and most right to attend.
   I want to present you with a different viewpoint. It is not one of ecumenical oneness of all different beliefs pretending that we like each other for a short while and then can go back to our lines that we have drawn in the sand. But rather, it is the idea that there is but one Truth. That He is all that matters and if we do not follow what He has given us, the Bible, and hold true to it's truths we are not part of the church. The church, the bride of Christ, is not merely a building with chairs or pews, rugs, and a pulpit. Rather, the church consists of those who believe that scripture is the foundation upon which we stand. That scripture is all that we need in order to make decisions on faith and creed. That all we need for salvation is faith (this faith is not ours, but that of Christ imputed to us through salvation). And lastly, that God's grace and mercy covers every part of us. People can be from different denominations and yet fellowship, worship, and praise God together. The issues that divide people and break that fellowship are those that do not hold to scripture as the bottom line, those that do not believe that God's grace is enough, and those that think their comfort rises above the goodness and grace of scripture.
   Our churches are not meant to make us comfortable, rich, or complacent. Our churches should push, strengthen, and strive to equip us to further the reach of the gospel. God calls us in Romans, as well as the entirety of the New Testament, to spread the gospel to all those who have never heard, as well as to those who have heard. Churches are not meant to be safe havens where everyone who enters its doors will never be offended or challenged. Rather, we should be getting challenged in our churches. As Paul says in II Timothy 3, scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training. It is not merely to make us feel good about ourselves or to tell us that we have the option to share the gospel with those in our community, but rather churches are supposed to make us uncomfortable when we hear about something we are doing wrong. They are supposed to challenge our beliefs if they differ from what is written in scripture. Churches are supposed to expose sin and relay the message of salvation and redemption through Christ.
   If churches are not doing these things, then maybe they aren't doing what they are supposed to do. If we were to stop looking for a church that meets all of our comforts and desires, and would rather take part in churches that challenge us to hold to scripture above all else we would see an immense difference in what people would consider Christian churches.
   Many people within "christian churches" make fun of or discredit the Puritans and their pious actions that they demonstrated. Yet, why would they do this? It is because they do not value scripture above all else, they are insecure and think that those who are different in their actions and deeds therefore must be weird and odd. Yet, the doctrines and messages that the Puritans preached to their congregations make most "Christians" today run, or choke. They run because they are afraid to place all of their trust in a God who is sovereign over all of creation. They choke because the message that they hear is one so deep and submerged within the depths of scripture that it sounds like a foreign language, one which they have not learned or taken part in.
   If, in our world today, we can find a church that resembles that of a Puritan church, we would be grateful and blessed. Church is not about all the frills and extras, it's about the Holy Word of God. This is what the church is for. To teach and to train those who are followers of Jesus Christ and to minister and serve those who are not, those who are in need. The members of a church are meant to share in fellowship with each other, just as they themselves fellowship daily with our Lord and Savior. If a specific church does not make you want to know Christ and the beauties of scripture more, but rather encourages you to become involved in everything else the world has to offer, then that church is not one that is following God. Programs and activities are great as long as they are a means to fellowship and share with one another. However, when they begin to take the place of actually learning and digging into the Bible, then they are the easiest and most useful tools of the devil to drawn Christians away from God.
   When we look for a church, we need to look for one that believes that Bible. If they do not do this, but rather hold that other things are on equal ground with scripture, or that other things hold authority above scripture they are not a church that we should be involved with. I think that Charles Spurgeon sums up the heart of the issue nicely. He says,
“That very church which the world likes best is sure to be that which God abhors.”
― Charles H. Spurgeon