Monday, March 30, 2009

Will the TRUE Church please Stand UP!!.....

The continuing saga of this!! Did I tell you that I have been a part of churches that suffer from these crisis'? Each one suffered because of their incorrect focus. I believe that when we do not focus on the head of the church, Jesus Christ, and the blueprint for church found in the Word of God, we will not succeed.

"By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked." 1 John 2:3-6 (NASB95) We are told to keep His Word and walk as Jesus walked. If not, John calls us liars, living in falsehood, working against God's Will which is not the truth.

Identity Crisis #6: We have treated the church as a age old company/business instead of an active mission/ministry of Jesus Christ.

Point 1: We have business meetings to decide how to or how not to spend money. The focus there is on maintenance of physical things we have and how to take care of them. We have to choose what has the highest priority and spend money painstakingly (i created this word..ha) to keep it maintained. Once again, temple mentality, not a living church mentality. What about bringing up something new such as a new building or a church sign, it becomes an item of contention. We get on the wrong "focus"..........You have read my crisis #1 on this issue.

Point 2: We have committees for everything....decorating, funeral, baptism, audio, parking lots, van and trailer, color of the toilet paper in the bathroom, etc. We have created too many boards to govern the church instead of focusing on the mission and ministry of the church and implementing a plan. Most churches I have been involved with do not even have an evangelism comm./team that concentrates on spreading the gospel to the community and beyond. The first century church in Acts spread the gospel to other cities and they were in unity about the sending because they understood their purpose as a church. It is written there in God's Word to send a lesson to us (church) about spreading the Good News!! At all costs, MAKE DISCIPLES!!

Point 3: Since we have our minds on maintenance not ministry, we have huddled inside our buildings. We do not send out ministers and missionaries to our communities and beyond. We have the business mentality as "you must come to us" at the building to see what we are about.
We don't cooperate with other like minded churches anymore because of what we have going on inside our buildings. We are not in tune with the needs of our community because we spend so much time planning events that happen with the 4 walls of the buildings we have. We are content with where we are and what we have and as long as people are giving to maintain the "status quo" then what else is there.

Point 4: Jesus was a servant leader, not a CEO. He did not lead with power, He led by example. Luke 19:10 says: "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which is lost." This purpose shares what Jesus was about. This purpose is not confined to an office or a building. This purpose does not come with a large salary and medical/dental with vacation benefits. This purpose did not come with a huge house with a white picket fence and two fancy cars. Look at the word "seek". Why do you think this is first? The lost must be sought that's a mission.

Let me ask you this question: Are you mission minded? Do you have a mission? I believe that the church Make Disciples and to take the gospel everywhere. (Matt. 28:17-20 and Acts 1:8) Does this cost money?....maybe the cost of a Bible.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Will the TRUE church please stand UP!!

Identity Crisis #5: The church has misunderstood what church membership is.

One of the fallacies of church life is counting the number of people present in Sunday School and worship to show what "we" have. A common question among pastor's is "How many are you running?" By doing this, we are identifying numbers as success so that we have created a "faithfulness equals attendance" mentality, which in my opinion is a WORKS salvation. Don't get me wrong, I am not presenting a case for NOT going to church.......hear me out!! Membership then is reduced to attendance and giving, not anything else. This is a major crisis.
If you are a believer and you are following the Great Commandment that our Lord taught, "Love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength" then "love your neighbor as yourself"; you have a desire to worship the Lord corporately and to be around God's people in something that God created for worship, ministry, discipleship, evangelism and fellowship. I read somewhere that worship of the Lord as a church on Sunday is the sum of what you have done in worship individually all week. If the church is a living organism, then we are not just attenders, we are disciples that think, feel, repent, and praise, confess and show reverence and so on and we desire to be in the presence of the Lord "together".

Allow me to use the example of the Rotary Club........Look at the Rotary Club Membership Requirements:
Attendance: Attending weekly club meetings allows members to enjoy fellowship, enrich their professional and personal knowledge, and meet other business leaders in their community.
Service: By participating in local and international service projects, club members can volunteer their time and talents where they’re most needed. The four Avenues of Service are Rotary’s philosophical cornerstone and the foundation on which club activity is based: Club Service focuses on strengthening fellowship and ensuring the club’s effective functioning. Vocational Service encourages Rotarians to serve others through their vocations and to practice high ethical standards. Community Service covers the projects and activities the club undertakes to improve life in its community. International Service encompasses actions taken to expand Rotary’s humanitarian reach around the globe and to promote world understanding and peace.
Finding and keeping members: To keep clubs strong, every Rotarian must share the responsibility of bringing new people into Rotary. Even new members can bring guests to club meetings or invite them to participate in a service project. Keeping members involved in Rotary is another responsibility. Fostering strong fellowship and encouraging early participation in service projects are two of the best ways to sustain a club’s membership.
Dues: Club members are required to pay annual dues to their clubs, districts, and Rotary International, as well as the subscription fee to the appropriate Rotary magazine.
Leadership: Club members are encouraged to volunteer for leadership roles at the club level and beyond. To learn more about leadership opportunities in your district, see the district leadership seminar page and the club committees page.

They require you to be there (fellowship, enrichment, & knowledge), to be involved in service (Vocational, Community, & International), responsibility to bring new people (evangelism) and invite them to be involved in a service project (serve along side them), pay dues (i won't go there on that should give to the Lord with a cheerful heart), and to volunteer to lead (servant leader mentality)!! Look at these and see what this civic organization requires.

What is required of the church member? What is the biblical basis of church membership? And how does this fit into the life of the New Testament church?

The biblical basis for church membership is in 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, "12 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many." (NASB95) We see the body imagery here as the body of Christ, the church, as we are to be members of the body as believers and children of God.

I believe that Mark Dever's book, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, delivers a great presentation of these things: "The practice among Christians of church membership has developed as an attempt to help us grasp hold of each other in responsibility and love. By identifying ourselves with a particular church, we let the pastors and other members of that local church know that we intend to be committed in attendance, giving, prayer, and service. We increase others' expectations of us in these areas, and we make it known that we are the repsonsibility of this local church. We assure the church of our commitment to Christ in serving with them, and we call for their commitment to serve us in love and to encourage us in our discipleship." (page 36)

Finally, as a church member who is a believer of Jesus Christ and is living out their faith, when you belong to a Bible believing church, you are testifying your salvation to the church and to the world. So, as a unified church of believers, you are declaring that you visibly and verbally acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior, King, and Lord in your life. Therefore, you are stating your salvation out loud to those around you in the church and in the world by the way you live, what you say, how you point others to Christ, your hunger for discipleship, etc.

So as we read 1 Cor. 12 and some helpful Dever's quotes, what are the requirements for church membership:
1. Church Membership is a COMMITMENT
2. Church Membership is a RESPONSIBILITY
3. Church Membership is a Testimony to SALVATION, individually and as a body of Christ

Compare this list to the church you are a part of and ask yourself, "Is this true of the church I belong to?" This is exhausting I know but I believe a large part of our identity crisis as a CHURCH!! I will continue on the three points of membership next time.......!!!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

WIll the TRUE Church please stand UP!!!

Identity Crisis #4: The church has been transformed by the culture of the world.

It has been too long that we have opened God's church, the body of Christ, to the culture of the world. The following examples I give you are from experiences I have had in my own life as part of a church. I have understood pastor's say that they are CEO's of the church. Since when has God called you to a high paying salary, a private jet, greediness, selfishness, and a holier than thou attitude. We are supposed to live the life of a servant, teaching and preaching God's Word humbly, and applying that teaching to ourselves as well as teaching doctrine, theology, and application to the congregation. Paul writes in Philippians 2 that we are to have the same attitiude of Christ...."humility and obedience", so we, pastor's, are to model this to the congregation and the community. Instead of preaching "you" to the crowd, we need to be preaching "we"....because we all are sinners that fall short of the glory of God.

In many churches, deacons have become boards of decision makers instead of servants of the church as we read in Acts 6. I am reading the translation of the Greek verb diakonew: serve, wait on; care for, see after, provide for; serve as a deacon. This board mentality is from a business or organization of the world and we like it so much it has to apply to the church. Go back to Identity Crisis #2; "we don't really know what church is." I have served at a few churches where deacons did no service, they made decisions for the welfare of the church...they were in charge. Didn't Jesus break up the argument of the disciples saying "Who will be first?"..."Who will be your #1, Jesus?" The answer is "The first shall be last." (Matthew 19:30)

Scripture is not the authority of the Church as God's Word. The attitude of Christ's church is "Just because God wrote it doesn't mean that it should apply to me" or "Just because it is in the Bible doesn't mean I have to follow it". We sit under teaching after teaching after preaching and our lives are no different, we havent applied anything!! We have let culture(worldly views) and politics guide our actions, we want to be politically correct. We have to side with one political party or the other. We think that we have to be stamped by the world by what we believe in....Democrat, Independent, or Repulican, instead of being identified as a believer of Jesus Christ, holy, chosen, and set apart.

Finally, the believers that make up the church. Folks, believers are to submit to God!! If we are believers, God's Word says we are to be pro-life, support marriage between man and woman for life, abstain from being drunkards, live Spirit filled lives not fleshly lives, stand against immorality, be just, and so on. This is against the world and culture we live in and the message it brings. We have been passionate about causes instead of being passionate about Christ in our lives. We are more passionate about success for ourselves than serving others. We are more passionate about griping about the world around us instead of being passionate about reading God's Word and applying the positive change it can make in our lives. We are more passionate about indulging in what the world offers than being passionate about changing our lives to sin less because it is Christ's desire for the believer. Martin Luther figured it out....and it changed his life in a major way. Aren't we called to be salt and light? To make a difference in the world becuase of our relationship with Jesus and to be a city on a hill that cannot be hidden?

What is it going to take? We are so far away from spiritual awakening because you cannot tell the difference between the world and the church. Is Henry Blackaby right? In his book, Holiness, "The spiritual condition of America depends on the spiritual condition of God's people." If it is, it depends on the believer of Jesus Christ to turn things around, to pray, to worship, to hunger for God's Word, to thirst for righteousness, to desire a close relationship with our Lord and Savior, to minister to others, to spread the gospel, to crave holiness, to be the example of Christ, to not forsake the meeting with the family of God.

We must get back to the roots of the early church in Acts where it all began.....Ed Stetzer said in a missional conference I attended: "We are called to be a first century church in a 21st Century world", not a 21st century church in a 21st century world!! We are hurting ourselves trying to be relevant, trying to fit in with the culture outside. Quit acting like the culture around us, quit letting the principles of the world into the called out, children of God, chosen, set apart, led by Christ, CHURCH!! Will the TRUE Church please STAND UP...for Jesus Christ and bow humbly and claim Him King!! Messiah!! Savior!! and Lord!! and claim ourselves as servants of Him who died on the cross for our sins because He loved us so much and submit to His plan, His will, His authority in our lives.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Will the TRUE Church please stand up!!

Identity Crisis #3: The people within the church, the believers, disciples, sheep, etc. do not know what "church" truly is. They have unrealistic expectations and traditional ideas of how church is supposed to be and press that amongst the body of Christ.

The evidence that I propose:
Pastors: First, we don't stay very long at any church, (I think the average is 3 years) so the body of Christ where we serve do not trust pastors because they know that another church will entice them, a bigger salary or bigger fellowship somewhere else will entice them, problems at the current church are too overwhelming, or a "I want a fresh start" attitude. If we really dig in at the church where God has placed us and truly shepherd His Church then this attitude of how church is supposed to be can change.

Second, pastor's need to lead people to the Scriptures, the blueprint of the Church. It must be preached and taught over and over. We are to lead the sheep to the green meadows and still waters. We spend so much of our time doing strategy planning, mission and vision statements, long range planning, and other stuff when we havent really properly defined and taught what the church is. Be passionate about this and lead!! If we are intrenched in tradition, then it is time for reform so we better dig in!!

Church Members: I hear church members make comments such as "what is the church going to do?" when it comes to various situations, or "the church ought to be doing this" or "that". Some have even taken on the role of church watch dog, to be its protector or its hero. They have forgotten that "For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything." Ephesians 5:23-24 (NASB95)

I have been in some churches where people have their feelings hurt because of what the church didn't do and that offended them. There are plenty of those folks in our communities who have lost their faith in their church. The Me & I mentality of society has entered the church through its members. We do not claim to be servants of God any longer. We want to be served. We are no longer accountable to God, His Word, or each other. We want to be "faithful" through our attendance so that we can be marked as present.

We have no clue as to what "being subject" means. The church is subject to Christ Paul writes. Subjection is from the Greek root “hupotasso”: to be subject to, to make oneself willing, to submit to the discipline and control of a superior. The drill sergeant’s job in the US Army is to make soldiers out of civilians, to turn them into a combat ready soldier from the every day Joe that walked down the street without a care. To learn the ways of a soldier and to turn from a simple life to a brand new one. Always training, always working, always asking if I am ready or not……it is the same with being a Christian. God is our drill sergeant turning us, transforming us into the Christian we are to be…constantly training and molding, ready to defend our faith, to share Jesus with the world, and to be disciplined in our walk with Him. That is being “subject” and giving control up to a superior. That is at the root of all this accountability!!

So read God's Word, the blueprint, study hard, preach, teach, and write down what God says the Church is. Before we go anywhere or do anything, we must understand our identity first.