God has been really dealing with me lately on a subject that is very dear to me – The Church.
So I have a question.
1. What is the new testament church supposed to look like?
2. Am I seeing evidence of the new testament church?
I will tell you right now that I do not have the answers to these questions. My goal in writing this post is to open the conversation and to cause us all to think about what we are doing as a local church and as a universal body of believers. I would love for you as a reader to share your thoughts. However, I will ask for you to cover your thoughts in prayer and reflection before you share them.
So with that being said, here are my thoughts.
Possibly a good way to begin to answer question 1 is to think about what the new testament church is NOT.
The new testament Church is not:
a. a building.
Putting a church’s name on a building does not make it a church. The church may use the building but the building itself is not the church.
b. a resort.
Gathering together as believers is not a vacation. It is work. If we want to be pampered and treated like we are deserving of special attention then we need to pay for a spa day.
c. a club.
We are not given the right to choose our members. God is the judge and jury. We are not.
d. a performance hall.
Our music, prayers, speech, and actions are for an audience of One.
e. a place of entertainment.
It doesn’t matter if we like or dislike the music, the order of worship, the preaching, the praying, the temperature, or the color of the carpet. We are not there to critique. We are there to participate and to worship. We should be so focused on God during worship that everything else fades away.
f. a commune.
We cannot live at the church and we cannot expect the church to supply our every need. We love each other and help each other but we cannot be totally dependent on the church.
g. a store.
We tithe but our tithes and offerings are for God alone. Righteousness, forgiveness, and grace can certainly not be purchased.
h. a hiding place.
The new testament church is not a place to hide behind a screen of false righteousness.
i. a home.
It is an extension of home but it is not home.
A church that appears perfect is in more trouble than we think.
k. an organization.
Just because there is a pastor and a full staff does not mean it is a new testament church.
l. a fix.
A new testament church can help people but is cannot fix people.
I’m sure you could add to this list.
So now let’s work on what Is a new testament church. I am changing my question number 1 as I realize that just “looking” like a new testament church does not necessarily mean that we are a new testament church. I think you would all agree that looks can be deceiving.
A New Testament Church Is:
a. a body of believers.
We are the church. Saved by the blood of Jesus Christ. It is a living, breathing body made up a individuals called by God who have a unique plan and purpose in the church and for the Kingdom of God. Their plan of service comes from God; not from the organization of the church.
b. a place of service.
If we are looking for a vacation we are in the wrong place. In the new testament church there are to be no observers, no fans on the sidelines. Everyone is to be in the game working and serving alongside each other. Everyone serves.
c. a hospital.
We are all sick. We are all sinners. We, as the body, are saved by the grace of God. It is not up to us to decide who is worthy to be healed. We don’t get to decide which diseases are welcome. We can’t specialize only in the diseases that we are comfortable with. It is up to us to offer the great physician to everyone.
d. a body of worship.
There is a time, desired by God, for all of us to come together collectively to worship. Find a place to worship that touches your soul. All members praying, singing, studying, giving praise to an audience of One. The God of the Universe. God inhabits the praise of His people. Freely praise Him.
There are no celebrities here; only followers of Jesus who adore their creator and want to worship Him.
We are to give out of our love for God not out of obligation. We could never give enough to pay our debt. We give because it is an honor to do so and to show our gratitude to our Father who gave so much.
f. a place of truth.
We cannot hide behind a screen of righteousness. We must be open and honest with each other about our faults. How can we possibly survive if we are all pretending to have it all together; if we are all pretending to be better than we really are. We will just wear out from the burden of building walls to hide behind. How can we reach a lost world if we are fake? It is time to be real. Dirty, rotten sinners saved by God’s amazing grace. Those who are lost will never enter into salvation if they see us and think we never really needed a Savior.
g. an extension of our home.
The church building is not where the work is really done. We cannot stay within the walls and wait for God to send lost people to us. Jesus said “Go”. The work is not even done in the midst of a gathering of the church body. The gathering of the church body, wherever it might be, is the training ground, the pep rally, the spiritual filling that sends us home to do the work. Most of the lost are not usually found at a gathering of the church body. The lost are found out in the trenches as we, the flesh of the Holy Spirit, the hands and feet of Christ show a dying world the love of God.
The new testament church is not perfect. It is just a group of filthy rags washed clean by the blood of Christ. If we get too proud of the amazing work we are doing for the cause of Christ we are no longer the definition of the new testament church. Sinners saved by grace.
i. organized but not an organization.
To have a wonderful, dedicated church staff is an amazing thing. For every one of those church staff to be truly called by God is incredible. However, a true new testament church does not rely on a dedicated staff to be effective. The staff, according to God’s direction, enables the members and equips them accordingly to serve. A church that relies on its staff to do the majority of the work will miss a tremendous blessing of being a part of building God’s kingdom.
We can’t fix people. We support the broken while God is in the process of doing the repair work.
The new testament church follows the new covenant command to love. Love God – Love Others. The problem is that we can’t. We just can’t. That is why God gave us Jesus. The Almighty Creator of the Universe showed His love for us. First by giving up a part of Himself to become flesh; one of us. To experience life as a human on earth. Then to bear all of the sin of mankind and sacrifice that human life, a part of Himself – His Son on a cross. To rise again and go to prepare a place for us. And finally, to return for us and desire to spend eternity with us. It isn’t our love that we show to others…it is God’s love. And that is enough.
That leads to question 2. Am I seeing evidence of the new testament church.
Once again my question is having to change. Yes, I desire to see all of these qualities in my local church. However, if what I have said is valid, then my question must be this:
Am I seeing evidence of the new testament church in myself?
For if the church is actually a body of believers then I am part of that body. My local church will only be as good as I am. My desire to serve, to reach outside the walls, to offer access to the great physician, to support, to give, to be truthful and honest about my own flaws, to love, to love, yes again, to love. It is really up to me. It is really up to you. Am I willing to be the new testament church and to move boldly into the future with a new commitment to God’s plan? Are you willing?
My prayer is that I will live love every day. That I will boldly move into the lost world around me and be the servant that God intended me to be. Will you join me?