Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Will the TRUE Church please stand up....!!!!! AGAIN!!!!

Last time, I mentioned that the church has LOST ITS IDENTITY. A living organism, the body of Christ, a fellowship of believers, God's people,...we are all these things. But our identity is lost, because of our ignorance of what the NT Church is supposed to be, not what a "traditional" church actually is.

IDENTITY CRISIS #1: We are limited to our buildings........we have a mentality today that church is a building or our "temple". When many people use the term "church", they are referring to the red brick building with the name "church" on it. When we have church, we have it in that building, no matter what it is. Every time we have an event, it is at the church. When we are so called "witnessing" to others, we don't share Christ with them, we invite them to church.

Oh man, do we need to read the book of Acts and Paul's letters. Acts 16:14-15 "A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us." Commentaries say that the church in Philippi met at Lydia's house after her salvation along with a Roman jailer and a slave who Paul drove an evil spirit out of. When he first arrives in Philippi, Paul finds a group of believers under a tree outside the city praying to God. Interesting.

Paul writes specifically in his letters to the church "to the believers in _______." Funny that he never mentions the buildings they are meeting in or the fact that the "church" which are the body of Christ...believers...even had a building. They were meeting in homes or sometimes elsewhere. The body of Christ was more important than the location of their meeting, but yet we suffer and die as a church, because we will go down with our buildings. When churches are not doing well and reduce in numbers, they can't see beyond the four walls that enclose them. They become paralyzed inside their buildings to see anyone that is "lost" outside of the church and in a sense become the Christian "country club" of the local town, city, or area.

Did you know that there is 1 Southern Baptist Church per every 3,000 in population in the Southern part of the United States? In NE Fannin County, we have five churches within the population of 3,364. We have buildings to mark our territories and show our presence!! But does the community know who the church is? That is the important question!!! Can you see that the church has a loss of identity here?

The traditional church is need of an "EXTREME" church makeover. We need to return to the roots of the New Testament where the church was not limited by buildings, but growing by the power of the Holy Spirit. The outside culture had false teaching, bad governments, dictators and govt. leaders who declared themselves "gods", sexual sin, gender issues, and I could go on. There are alot of similarities to today's culture. The church was born after the ascension of Christ in the midst of this junk around them. They focused on exalting Jesus, the Great Commandment, the equipping of the saints, and going and making disciples. They were the hands and feet of Jesus Christ as they went and preached the gospel boldly, with the Holy Spirit going before them working as their guide and convicting hearts.

I am getting goose bumps thinking about this!!!! Let us pursue what the TRUE church is. God has given us a blueprint of what it is supposed to be...let us follow our Jesus with passionate pursuit!!.......Oh, I am not done yet.....Sleepy Disciple


Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Brother Brian,

I very much appreciate what you have written here, but I am concerned about a thing or two, also.

You offer a large unchurched population, and a lack of understanding among the lost of who the church is as evidence of a church that has lost its identity.

But isn't it true that the normal condition of the true church throughout the centuries is just like that? Doesn't the church almost always exist as a small minority of the population, and doesn't that large unbelieving population fail to understand what the church is?

Love in Christ,


Anonymous said...

Bro. Brian -
I appreciate your bringing the point that here in NE Fannin Co we have 5 - FIVE - churches for a population of less than 3,500. (there are actually six if you count Wild Horse Cowboy church) Ivanhoe, Duplex, Elwood, Telephone and Lamasco. Each of these churches would have (and I admit to guessing on these figures here) around 70 (average) in attendance on a Sunday morning. Now I've two questions for you:
1-WHY are we 'hung up on' a building?
2-Are we working toward the same thing?

(btw, I am not arguing for consolidation, eliminating, or anything like that, contrary to popular belief)

Pastor Clark said...

From Ed Stetzer's blog over at lifeway:

"Maybe we are almost as lost as the unbelievers we have shunned. After all, since Jesus has left the 99 and is in pursuit of the one who is lost, if we are not with him, but are cloistered away in our Sunday clubs, are we not lost from Him too?"

Unknown said...

Spot on again. I think your second sentence gets to the heart of the matter. The church is an organism, and is too often identified as a static object. We will find our power as the church when individual believers pursue their personal relationship with Christ, and apply their personal callings to every day of their life. Being the living church should be our daily goal without regard to our location.

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Pastor Clark,

What does "almost as lost" mean? Are their degrees of lostness?

Are you sure that is a valid application of that parable?

Love in Christ,


Craig Vance said...

Maybe the problem with our church identity lies within our individual identities. Ask any person what they consider their highest identity. Are they a pastor, a farmer, cattleman, mechanic, husband, father, deacon, etc.? We usually lead them to answer their job description. When introduced to another, after learning their name we ask- What do you do? And this is usually answered with an occupation.

What if Christ was our highest identity? What if we considered our life only in relation to God? We would not have issues with fellowship, preaching, teaching, reaching, meeting needs, loving, and impacting our world (within or outside Fannin County).

We are what we have been taught and what we teach. We have been taught that Christianity is something you do, like watching TV, or going to the grocery store. I go to the grocery store on Mondays for I am out of food. I go to church on Sundays because that's what we do. Because we are Christians. That's what we tell our kids. We do because we are Christians. Have you heard this, "It's the Christian thing to do."

Pathetic. We do because we are compelled by the relationship we have with God through His Son, Jesus. When we are baptized, we (supposedly) are proclaiming to the world that our highest identity is with Christ- to be like Him in His death- dying to our ways and agendas, raised to walk in holiness and a life that glorifies only God.

Or does baptism only mean we get to join this lovely congregation next Sunday and not be labeled a visitor?

The Church is weak at its local level because we teach religion and not relationship. We have the worst biblical literacy within our own churches with the exception of Adam and Eve, Noah, Samson, Daniel, David and Goliath, a few of Jesus' miracles, and if there is not a story- forget it. We remember stories, but not much doctrine, or where to find it.

The people who attend churches today are so much like the world that the world can't tell the difference. And we don't know each other well enough to realize that we are just like the world. Of course, that's because we only see each other on Sunday's and we sit and listen instead of fellowship and worship.

Solution? You change. I change. Teach others rightly. Talk about the relationship you have with God, and the church and its programs take the back seat. Being together on Sundays ought to be a weekly refuge where we are truly loved and cared for when the world casts us out because we are just like God and they can't stand us. This is the place where we tell of our lives being changed, introduce new believers we watched being birthed into the kingdom, the place of rejoicing over our Savior because He is OUR Savior, and shout the amens as the preacher tells the truth from the pulpit.

This is the church. Now, where can I find it?


Sleepy Disciple said...

Jeff, good point. The lost should not know what the church is. I was not thinking about them. I am thinking primarily about the body of believers who are the church and the view of church that I have seen. Don't get me wrong, i am not judging the church....but our perception/knowledge/understanding of what church really is.

And nthesticks is right too, there is a new cowboy church in our area that I forgot to include. I apologize to them for that.

To answer her question #1...it is a pride issue of people in the church. We are too proud of what we have in our 'stuff'..buildings and bank accounts. I have heard different people say throughout the years that "this is my church". We can see how this loss of identity is a huge problem.
To answer question #2: yes, we should cooperate together to love the Lord with all our heart and to love others as well as preach the gospel so that the righteousness of the Lord will be revealed to us and others.

Great comments!! Thanks!!
Love in Christ, Brian

Anonymous said...

so may our only competition be on the playing field.

May we gather together to celebrate the Lord without any 'stiff-necked' attitude.

May we reach out together to our community to bring them to Him.

O.o - - are ya game?