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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What Church is Like

This is not intended as a position statement or a harangue. This is a request for input.
11 And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from Whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Eph 4:11-16).

26 When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace (1 Cor 14:26-33).

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Col 3:16).

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near (Heb 10:23-25).
These are a few of the clearest, most explicit passages on what church is like, or, rather, what it is supposed to be like. It is the building up of the saints. It is maturing, speaking the truth in love, growing, working together. The Corinthians passage describes what Paul thought a church gathering should be like, with everyone taking part rather than a few up front and everyone else listening. The Hebrews passage commands that we "hold fast the confession" (in a world of Christianity that largely despises confessions today) and "consider how to stir up one another to love" and "encouraging one another". It's "church". It's how it's supposed to be. But I have to be honest. It is, for the largest part, not my experience.

So this is, as I said, a request for input. In light of passages like these (feel free to pick more), what is your church like? How does your church do with this stuff? How well does your church line up with the biblical ideal? How is the fellowship? How does your church do at building up Christians? How does your local gathering of believers spur you to love and good works? What is your church doing that works ... or doesn't work? I would like to think that some of you out there are part of churches about which you could warmly share. Share! Some others might think, "I think I'm alone in this, in that I haven't found a church that is like this." These would like to know that they're not alone. So ... share!


Dan Trabue said...

Because you're asking directly and because you may find it informative, I will submit this for consideration for posting here.

Our church is very much like this. Yes, we have a pastor, but we have other prophets, shepherds, teachers and saints equipping other saints for the work of ministry.

When we come together, each one often does have a hymn, a lesson, an interpretation.

The Word of God does abide in us richly, we are a people of the Word and the Word, made flesh.

Adding to this passage, I'd consider these possibilities for essentials for what church ought to be:

God has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God...

(Micah 6)

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me...’

(Matt 25)

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.

With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need...

Acts 4

For starters...

Thanks for asking. Going back on hiatus unless you have some specific questions.

Stop by at Jeff St if you're ever in Louisville. You might be surprised...

Gina Burgess said...

I belong to a church where the pastor struggles to wake up the complacent believers into understanding that Jesus really meant what He said.

We are a praying church; and there is much to be coveted in that. But I believe there is a lot of setting with nothing being hatched.