THE PURPOSE OF THE CHURCH!
(In this article, I am using the word "church" in the sense used commonly today, as a local group of believers or as the place or building where that group meets. The truth, of course, is that all true believers in Christ constitute the church of Jesus Christ!)
In recent years, the purpose of the church in America has been reexamined. The result is that many churches "updated" and redefined their purpose. Most American churches were deemed"too traditional" for our modern culture.
It was suggested that churches should be modernized and repurposed!
Church members were seen as too comfortable. Many wrote that it was unfair that those in the American church should hear the message of the gospel many times while those outside the church had little or no opportunities to hear the gospel.
The obvious conclusion in the minds of many leaders was that we must make churches more suitable for unbelievers so that they too would be able to hear the gospel and turn to God.
I cannot help but wonder if this approach has actually created a more shallow and less powerful church!
Am I wrong in thinking that in the past, the church existed mainly for believers rather than unbelievers? Evangelism was not primarily done in the church but accomplished outside. The impetus of evangelism was not a church built on the premise of making the outsider comfortable but in a church whose members had spiritual depth and fire for God!
This high degree of spiritual depth and fire highly motivated the body of believers to reach out to win the world for Christ!
Certainly keeping useless traditions can be erroneous. Some traditions can and should be updated. Pipe organs, hymnals or a certain style of outdated dress should not be equated with a high level of holiness or spirituality. Many who have fond memories of these traditions often mistakenly want to cling to them, thinking that if we repent and return to them, we will usher in a spiritual awakening in our churches!
But some traditions should not be so easily discarded!
THE SECRET POWER OF THE CHURCH!
The secret behind the church's power success has always been the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit and the ability of the individual Christian and body of believers to grasp the things of God. Although we have many newer methods of communicating the word of God today, perhaps we are not as proficient in studying, understanding and applying it to our lives!
The depth of our Christian lives seems to have been replaced by issue-oriented theology and quick answers which do not require us to be as personally acquainted with God and His ways! We are fluent in the correct way to deal with the issues of life but instead of flowing from a deep, personal relationship with God, it comes secondhand from Christian leaders!
Have we adopted an older theological position in which we believe that the only the Christian leaders can actually understand God and the Bible? They are sometimes viewed as "experts" who will tell us how to live.
Modern celebrities are often asked their opinions on issues of the day. Fame and a degree of measurable, outward success seems to validate their opinions. It often baffles me that it is so important to us to know their views. Playing a psychiatrist in a movie does not qualify anyone to treat a patient, nor does playing the president on television give an actor any special insight into leading the country!
Do we also apply this same mindset to Christian leaders today? If a Christian leader is famous for writing books, "starring" in videos, pastoring large churches or broadcast on radio or TV, do we consider them to have a God-given authority to speak to us on Christian issues?
The power of winning the lost world to Christ does not come from creatively thinking up clever ways to relate to them. It comes from being endued with power from on high!
I am not arguing against using varied methods and creative means to reach the world for Christ. These can and should be utilized as the holy Spirit directs.
I am merely repeating what has been stated by so many great men of God - that the power comes from within - not from our outward methods and programs!
Some churches with pipe organs may still worship God with all their hearts! If your church does not have one, I would not suggest purchasing one as a means to revival!
I do however believe that we need to return to seeing the primary purpose of the church, which is to to facilitate and inspire the growth of believers, rather than to evangelize unbelievers or make them comfortable. As genuine believers grow in depth of relationship with Christ, they will also grow in becoming equipped and inspired to evangelize the world!
Certainly we should continue to evangelize and preach the gospel regularly as a vital part of our church mission both in and out of the place where the congregation meets!
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,
12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;
15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—
16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
If we water down deeper spiritual truths to win the lost, we are diluting the greatest source of power we have in our churches - the true believer who is ever growing in maturity, strength and relationship with God!